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Mary T. White


Chronic pain is a common ailment among US adults and can lead to high cost of healthcare when not treated effectively. Unfortunately, studies show that characteristics of the patient population and physician may also influence their treatment of patient pain. Increased years of medical training is associated with a decline in empathy, which may be measurable by a decline in physician’s assessment of patient’s pain. Doctors with the least experience tend to underestimate their patient’s pain. However, very little is known about medical students’ assessment of patient-reported pain. The objective is to determine the significant differences in medical students’ perceptions of a patient's pain, as witnessed in a short video, depending on years of medical training and/or gender. This is an observational study that was implemented through an anonymous survey conducted with all enrolled medical students from the Boonshoft School of Medicine. The survey asks respondents to answer a few demographic questions that include their level of education (medical school years) and their gender. Separate ANOVA evaluated differences across class years within males and females, and differences between males and females within class years. The results show that there was no statistically significant difference in perception of patient’s pain between genders (p = 0.051). However, the only significant difference was the score between first and third-year students (p = 0.023). Perceived pain scores compared between gender and class year showed no difference in how males and females scored the patient’s pain across all four classes. Reasons for the difference between the first and third years could be the difference in starting classes in the basic science, physiology, and pathology phase and beginning clinicals in the third year.