Health care reform as perceived by first year medical students

Michael S Wilkes, Samuel A. Skootsky, Carol S. Hodgson, Stuart Slavin, LuAnn Wilkerson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Our study objective was to evaluate the attitudes of first year medical students toward the health care system using a self administered questionnaire to all first year medical students at the medical schools in the University of California system. Of 631 students surveyed, 94% comleted the instrument. Students were asked about their attitudes toward and familiarity with concepts in health services, access to care, and managed care. Our findings indicated that most students were unfamiliar with concepts related to health services. Students were concerned about access to care; sixty-six percent of students favor a national health insurance plan. A majority of students supported allowing patients access to the current health care system regardless of the cost or utility of a medical test or procedure. Thirty-nine percent felt that rationing health care in any form (transplants, access to the intensive care unit, etc.) is contrary to the way medicine should be practiced. 72% felt that practicing physicians had a major responsibility to help reduce health care costs. When asked about specific changes intended to control health costs, students identified reform of medical malpractice system (63%) and increased spending on preventive health (60%) as the two proposals most likely to be effective. Students generally held negative attitudes toward managed care organizations; only 10% would chose to receive their care in HMOs. We conclude that first year medical students generally have little understanding of the health care system. Despite this, they hold strong opinions about access to care, managed care organizations and strategies intended to reduce health care spending. It is up to medical educators to find creative methods of introducing these content areas into an already bulging curriculum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-269
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Community Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1994

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Professions(all)
  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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