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Context: In 1999, the medical curriculum of Ghent University underwent a fundamental change. The new curriculum is problem-based, emphasizing both horizontal and vertical integration. One of its remarkable qualities is the possibility of continuous evolution through permanent reflection and evaluation. The students, organised in the Student's Association on Education, take an active part in this process. Recently, students remarked that the offer of optional subjects in the new curriculum was limited. Apart from the thesis, there was no formal opportunity to gain more in-depth knowledge on an individually chosen subject. Objective: To explore the possibilities of optional subjects in a medical curriculum. Design: Using a survey, fifth year students were questioned on the need for optional subjects. The results of this, as well as the inspiration we gained during a visit at the faculty of medicine of Maastricht University served as a starting point for a round-table meeting with members of the educational board. Interventions: As it is difficult to decide to what extent subjects can be optional, this matter was introduced gradually. Initially, one week in the fifth year of the curriculum was reserved for options. Students were also offered the possibility to suggest own subjects. Results: The first time this week was organised, thirteen optional subjects, proposed by lecturers, were offered. Additionally, one subject was suggested by a group of students: they set up a community-oriented educational programme in a secondary school in Ghent. The evaluation of both initiatives was organized by the students. The results were encouraging. Conclusions: The project we present is still in its infancy, but we work on the development of a complete 'Exploration-continuum'. In this way, students should be able to deepen their knowledge in particular fields and attribute a personal tinge to their education. This might enhance the motivation and involvement towards their studies and future profession.


Ghent University Faculty of Medicine


Research poster presented at the Network: Towards Unity for Health Conference, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, November 2005 (