What’s in a name? Research learning outcomes in primary medical education

Colleen Cheek*, Richard Hays, Janie Dade Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
137 Downloads (Pure)


Research ability is considered important in preparing medical graduates for their future work roles, providing openness to critical inquiry and astute information management (Frenk et al., 2010). The role of knowledge integrator, facilitator, and advisor, incorporating finely-tuned judgement, reasoning and decision-making, are important in achieving the leadership expected of the profession (Frenk et al., 2010). Engaging medical students in research training has historically proven challenging, and there is variable understanding of the level expected in primary medical training.

Most medical schools in Australia have now adopted a Master’s Level ‘Medical Doctorate’ (MD) for primary medical training. Both the Australian Qualifications Framework (2013) requirements (pertaining to the level of qualification) and the Australian Medical Council (AMC) standards (pertaining to the profession) expect graduates of an MD to have understanding of research principles, process and methods, and to be able to apply these to professional practice (Australian Medical Council Limited, 2012). Many schools have interpreted this as a requirement for more intensive research training. While research knowledge and skills are integrated throughout curricula, there is substantial variation in the way these are taught, and little evidence of effective learning exists.

Varying approaches to align courses internationally may have muddied the situation further. For example, in the UK, primary medical training is considered to meet the requirements of a UK Level 7 Master’s Degree, although most programmes have retained historical titles of Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, abbreviated as BM BS or MBChB. In Canada, graduates of primary medical training are awarded the degree of Doctor of Medicine (MD) but are considered to have achieved academic outcomes at Bachelor level. In the US, graduates of primary medical training are awarded the degree of Doctor of Medicine (MD) and widely assumed to achieve Master’s level learning outcomes. European medical schools, through conformance with the Bologna Declaration, are tending toward a 2nd cycle, or Master’s degree. In the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore retains a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS), as do Malaysia (a Level 6 Bachelor degree), Japan and New Zealand. In Australia, there are some Bachelor (Level 7) programmes but most medical schools have adopted a Master’s Degree (Extended) (Level 9E) for primary medical training, conferring a ‘Medical Doctorate’ (MD). In these examples there is little correlation between learning outcome levels and programme duration, which ranges from four to six years.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-103
Number of pages5
JournalThe Asia Pacific Scholar
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2021


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