Addressing gaps in abortion education: A sexual health elective created by medical students

Author Department

Emergency Medicine

Document Type

Article, Peer-reviewed

Publication Date



Medical school curricula frequently contain gaps in the areas of abortion and sexual health. A group of first- and second-year medical students at the authors' institution organized a collaborative, multidisciplinary elective course to address such omissions in the preclinical curriculum. This paper describes the process of creating and implementing the elective. Medical students identified curricular gaps in the areas of abortion, sexual assault, lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender health, and HIV counseling. Clinical faculty and community-based professionals were invited to address these topics in a weekly lecture series organized by students. The course also included a half-day experience shadowing at a local abortion clinic. Collaboration with several student groups helped broaden student interest in and increase financial support for the elective. Some 37% of all first- and second-year students enrolled in the elective and received institutional credit for the course. Written and verbal evaluations confirmed student satisfaction with the lectures and the clinical experience. Dynamic and well-prepared speakers who presented interesting medical content received the highest ratings from students. Student leaders identified several challenges in implementing the elective. Ultimately the elective proved to be a successful collaboration among students, faculty, and healthcare providers, and resulted in permanent changes in the standard medical school curriculum. Challenges for student-initiated electives include difficulty in finding administrative support, securing funding and ensuring sustainability. This paper aims to make this process accessible and applicable to other students and faculty interested in addressing curricular gaps at their respective medical schools.

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