Data science in undergraduate medicine: course overview and student perspectives

Dimitrios Doudesis, Areti Manataki*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background Despite the growing interest in health data science education, it is not embedded in undergraduate medical curricula and little is known about best teaching practices. This paper presents a highly innovative course in a UK university that introduces undergraduate medical students to data science. It also discusses a study on student perspectives on the learning and teaching of health data science. 
Methods The pedagogical design elements of the Data Science in Medicine course are discussed, along with its syllabus, assessment methodology and flipped classroom delivery. The course has been offered to approximately 630 students over three years. Student perspectives were investigated through three focus groups with the participation of 19 students across different study years in medicine. An experiment was conducted regarding instructor-led vs. video-based modalities of online programming labs, with the participation of 8 students. 
Results The course has led to improved data competency among medical students and to a positive change in their opinions about data science. Motivating the course and showing relevance to clinical practice was one of the biggest challenges. Statistics was perceived by focus group participants as an essential data skill. Including data science in the medical curriculum was perceived as important by Year 1 students, while opinions varied between Year 4/5 participants. Video-based online labs were preferred over instructor-led online labs, and they were found to be more useful and enjoyable, without leading to any significant difference in academic performance. 
Conclusions Teaching data science to undergraduate medicine students is highly desirable and feasible. We recommend including statistics in the curriculum and practical skill development through simple and clinically-relevant data science tasks, supported through video-based online labs. Further reporting on similar courses is needed, as well as larger-scale studies on student perspectives.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104668
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Medical Informatics
Early online date20 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


  • Data science
  • Health
  • Medicine
  • Education
  • Training
  • Health informatics


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