Introducing mass communications strategies to medical students: a novel short session for fourth-year students Journal Article uri icon
  • PROBLEM: The World Health Organization calls on all with quality medical information to share it with the public and combat health misinformation; however, U.S. medical schools do not currently teach students effective communication with lay audiences about health. Most physicians have inadequate training in mass communication strategies. APPROACH: In August 2018, a novel 90-minute class at the University of Minnesota Medical School introduced fourth-year medical students to basic skills for communicating with lay audiences through mass media. Instructors were physicians with experience interacting with the general public via radio, op-ed articles, social media, print media, television, and community and legislative advocacy. After a 20-minute lecture and sharing of instructors' personal experiences, students completed two 30-minute small-group activities. They identified communications objectives and talking points for a health topic, drafting these as Tweets or an op-ed article outline, then presented talking points in a mock press conference with their peers, practicing skills just learned. Pre- and postsurveys documented students' previous engagement and comfort with future engagement with mass media messaging. OUTCOMES: Over 1 week, 142 students participated in 6 separate classes, and 127 completed both pre- and post-surveys. Before the course, only 6% (7/127) of students had comfortably engaged with social media and 14% (18/127) had engaged with traditional media in their professional roles. After the course, students self-reported an increase in their comfort, perceived ability, and likelihood of using specific communications skills to advocate for their patients (all P < .001). NEXT STEPS: The course will be expanded into a 5-session thread for third- and fourth-year medical students spread over 2 years. This thread will include meeting physicians who engage with lay audiences, identifying best practices for mass health communication, identifying bias and misinformation, "dos and don'ts" of social media, and communication skills for legislative advocacy.

  • Link to Article
    publication date
  • 2022
  • published in
  • Academic Medicine  Journal
  • Research
  • Communication
  • Education, Medical
  • Social Media
  • Students
  • Additional Document Info
  • 97
  • issue
  • 7