Academic Leagues and Medical Training: An Exploratory Study in a Traditional School of Medicine
ABSTRACT The rising number of students leagues in the Escola Paulista de Medicina of the Universidade Federal de São Paulo (EPM–Unifesp) leads to questions about their meaning to students and their role in medical training, as well as concerns about learning distortions, early specialization, social relevance, and insertion in the Brazilian national health system, called the Sistema Único de Saúde (SUS). In order to try and clarify these questions, this qualitative study analyzes the statues of the leagues, and the statements of tutors and students, gathered by means of four focal groups with students and two interviews with the tutors. We found 45 leagues currently running at the EPM–Unifesp, most of them associated with a medical specialty. The main motivators for joining in a league were: the search for practical activities, the desire to gain more experience of a particular specialty, the desire for more knowledge, and the need to be recognized as a responsible adult. Of the leagues studied, few conducted research or university extension activities, focusing on treatment and theoretical classes, supervised by professors, non-teacher physicians, resident doctors, or more senior students. The tutors are in charge of the organizational aspects. The leagues can reproduce graduation models, such as an overburdoning with activities and poor expository classes. Concerning insertion in the SUS, the leagues could be a means of training future SUS professionals. Although students claim that they intend to specialize in the league’s field, the tutors disagree that they lead to early specialization. We consider that while leagues fill gaps in the learning and expectations of the course, they are limited in regards to the impact of their activities on medical training and their social relevance. They can subvert the curricular structure and favor early specialization. We recommend that universities pay closer attention to students leagues, observing their number, selection process, activities, tutors involved and explicit objectives, with the purpose of evaluating their roles in the curriculum and medical training.