Undergraduate teaching on biological weapons and bioterrorism at medical schools in the UK and the Republic of Ireland: results of a cross-sectional study

Stephen T. Green, Lorenzo Cladi, Paul Morris, Donall Forde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objective: To determine if individual undergraduate schools of medicine in the UK and the Republic of Ireland provide any teaching to medical students about biological weapons, bioterrorism, chemical weapons and weaponised radiation, if they perceive them to be relevant issues and if they figure them in their future plans. Design: A cross-sectional study utilising an internet-based questionnaire sent to key figures responsible for leading on the planning and delivery of undergraduate medical teaching at all schools of medicine in the UK and Ireland. Setting: All identified undergraduate schools of medicine in the UK and Ireland between August 2012 and December 2012. Outcome measures: Numerical data and free text feedback about relevant aspects of undergraduate teaching. Results: Of the 38 medical schools approached, 34 (28 in UK, 6 in Ireland) completed the questionnaire (89.47%). 4 (all in UK) chose not to complete it. 6/34 (17.65%) included some specific teaching on biological weapons and bioterrorism. 7/34 (20.59%) had staff with bioterrorism expertise (mainly in microbiological and syndromic aspects). 4/34 (11.76%) had plans to introduce some specific teaching on bioterrorism. Free text responses revealed that some felt that because key bodies (eg, UK's General Medical Council) did not request teaching on bioterrorism, then it should not be included, while others regarded this field of study as a postgraduate subject and not appropriate for undergraduates, or argued that the curriculum was too congested already. 4/34 (11.76%) included some specific teaching on chemical weapons, and 3/34 (8.82%) on weaponised radiation. Conclusions: This study provides evidence that at the present time there is little teaching at the undergraduate level in the UK and Ireland on the subjects of biological weapons and bioterrorism, chemical weapons and weaponised radiation and signals that this situation is unlikely to change unless there were to be high-level policy guidance.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere002744
JournalBMJ Open
Volume3
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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