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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 24  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 120-125

Rethinking medical school curriculum: An exploratory study of medical student mental health in a nontraditional program

1 The University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School, Austin, Texas, USA
2 School of Public Health, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), Austin, Texas, USA

Correspondence Address:
Lindsey N Teal
4646 Mueller Blvd. Apt 1063, Austin, Texas 78723
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jmhhb.jmhhb_35_19

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Context: Medical student mental health has been studied extensively, yet little is known about students in nontraditional medical school programs. Aims: The goal of this study was to assess the frequency of symptoms of mental illness in the first, second, and third class at a new, nontraditional medical school. Settings and Design: An exploratory self-reported study was conducted in students enrolled at recently opened University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School (n = 147) in April 2019. Methods: The Patient Health Questionnaire-9 was selected as the outcome measure for the study which includes subscales for depression, thoughts of suicidal ideation or self-harm, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Qualitative interview data were collected to better understand perceived barriers to engaging with university mental health services. Statistical Analysis Used: Descriptive statistics was used for the univariate analysis with Chi-square, and logistic regression models were used for the bivariate analysis. Results: One hundred and twenty of the 187 students responded to the survey, and the response rate was 81.6%. Overall, 16 (13.3%) of medical students were screened positive for depression, 14 (11.7%) for anxiety, and 4 (3.4%) for PTSD. There were 7 (5.8%) of students who reported suicidal ideation or thoughts of self-harm. The second year students reported higher rates of mental health illnesses when compared to other classes. Common barriers to using mental health services were lack of time (n = 52, 63.4%) and stigma (n = 13, 15.9%). The response rate for the quantitative and qualitative data was 120 (81.6%) and 82 (68.3%), respectively. Conclusions: Attending a nontraditional medical school program may contribute to a low prevalence of anxiety (11.7%). Since the 2nd year clinical medical students had the highest rates of mental illness and reported lack of time as the largest barrier, interventions should focus on providing flexible timing of mental health services.

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