gms | German Medical Science

15. Grazer Konferenz – Qualität der Lehre: Teaching and Learning – Expanding our Resources

28. - 30. April 2011, Wien, Österreich

Does a medical student need chemistry?


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15. Grazer Konferenz – Qualität der Lehre: Teaching and Learning – expanding our resources. Wien, Österreich, 28.-30.04.2011. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2012. Doc11grako33

doi: 10.3205/11grako33, urn:nbn:de:0183-11grako339

Published: April 25, 2012

© 2012 Oettl et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.


Medical students mainly want to study medicine. However, medical curricula often start with physics, chemistry, biology etc.. Normally chemical topics are not among the favourites of medical students. During preclinical courses students often perceive basic sciences as not being relevant for clinical care [1]. Nevertheless students might experience regret during their clerkship because of having not paid more attention to factual basic science knowledge in their preclinical years [2] There is consensus about the importance of basic sciences in medical education [3] and the answer to the above raised question about the necessity of chemical training is “yes”. However, the question has to be extended: “What kind of chemistry does a medical student need”? Medical students will become, e.g., general practitioners, medical specialists or scientists with different requirements for knowledge and skills in basic sciences. A first step to answer the question is to teach chemistry in a clinical context which helps to reinforce the acceptance and retention of knowledge [3]. Therefore we will incorporate medically and clinically relevant contents into preclinical education and training in chemistry. We asked students in the 5th year of education and their instructors which chemical topics they need for clinical practice, which could be reduced and which have to be expanded. In a focus group with clinical instructors we asked for clinically relevant topics applicable to teaching chemical principles. The next step was to specify learning objectives. Based on the data and the objectives, the contents of chemical education are adapted. Our intention is to teach chemical contents in a way that future general practitioners as well as medical scientists will need and medical students can accept.


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