Effect of problem-based, self-directed undergraduate education on life-long learning.
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OBJECTIVE: To compare how well graduates of a self-directed, problem-based undergraduate curriculum (at McMaster University [MU], Hamilton, Ont.) and those of a traditional curriculum (at the University of Toronto [UT]) who go on to primary care careers keep up to date with current clinical practice guidelines. DESIGN: Analytic survey. Management of hypertension was chosen as an appropriate topic to assess guideline adherence. An updated version of a previously validated questionnaire was mailed to the participants for self-completion. SETTING: Private primary care practices in southern Ontario. PARTICIPANTS: A random sample of 48 MU graduates and 48 UT graduates, stratified for year of graduation (1974 to 1985) and sex, who were in family or general practice in Ontario; 87% of the eligible subjects in each group responded. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Overall and component-specific scores; analysis was blind to study group. RESULTS: The overall mean scores were 56 (68%) of a possible 82 for the MU graduates and 51 (62%) for the UT graduates (difference between the means 5, 95% confidence interval 1.9 to 8.2; p < 0.01). Multivariate linear regression analysis of seven factors that might affect questionnaire scores revealed that only the medical school was statistically significant (p < 0.01). The MU graduates had significantly higher mean scores than the UT graduates for two components of the questionnaire: knowledge of recommended blood pressures for treatment (p < 0.05) and successful approaches to enhance compliance (p < 0.005). The trends were similar for the other components but but were not significant. CONCLUSIONS: The graduates of a problem-based, self-directed undergraduate curriculum are more up to date in knowledge of the management of hypertension than graduates of a traditional curriculum.
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