At the University of Maryland School of Medicine, faculty and students are invited to participate in a programme dealing with the psychosocial aspects of medicine and interpersonal skills development (Human Dimensions in Medical Education-HDME). Utilizing a small-group format, this programme encourages discussion of attitudes and feelings on a wide range of topics in an open, supportive environment. Shortly after the programme became fully operational, first-, second- and third-year medical students evaluated their relationships with their faculty advisers using a 25-item questionnaire. Students assigned to advisers who participated in the HDME programme reported higher activity in ten behavioural areas than students of non-HDME advisers, generally reflecting closer personal relationships and greater adviser initiative in establishing relationships. In addition, HDME students felt more at ease approaching their advisers with a personal problem than did students who had not participated in the HDME programme. Programme-related activities were the most frequent source of close relationships between faculty and student programme participants. Overall results emphasized the value of faculty initiative in establishing relationships with students and the impact of opportunities for small-group interaction, whether in academic or social settings, for the development and maintenance of an institutional support system. Such opportunities for personal contact can assist students to deal more easily with the pressures of the educational process, and with conflicts among personal and professional priorities that will characterize their lives as physicians.
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