Retention of medical genetics knowledge and skills by medical students

Anne E. Greb, Simone Brennan, Lori McParlane, Renee Page, Patrick D. Bridge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Purpose: To determine whether specific knowledge and skills medical students acquire after completing a Year 1 genetics course are retained at the end of Year 3. Methods: A genetics case was developed for an observed structured clinical exam at the end of Year 3. The case involved a pregnant patient who underwent population screening for cystic fibrosis and is identified as a carrier of a common mutation. Student's performance in completing eight essential genetic tasks taught in Year 1 was assessed by their ability to apply these concepts in the Year 3 observed structured clinical exam. Results: A total of 212 students were included in the study. Performance on the essential tasks revealed that students were better able to discuss inheritance pattern (73.1%). Students were less likely to calculate and discuss fetal risk (25%), discuss the option of prenatal diagnosis if the father is a carrier (25%), and ask about a family history of cystic fibrosis (36.8%). Only half (50%) explained the test result and implications to the patient. There was no correlation between individual student exam scores in Year 1 and the eight essential genetics tasks scores assessed in the observed structured clinical exam (r = 0.003, P ≤ 0.67). Conclusion: Third year medical students do not retain medical genetics knowledge and skills learned in the first year of medical school. Medical schools need to integrate genetics curriculum through the continuum of the 4 years of medical school.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-370
Number of pages6
JournalGenetics in Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Knowledge and skills
  • Medical genetics
  • Medical students
  • Observed structured clinical exam
  • Retention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)


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