Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Parham, Ellen S.

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)

Legacy Department

Department of Home Economics


Medical students; Nutrition--Study and teaching (Higher)


Increasing awareness of the role nutrition plays in the maintenance of health and recuperation from disease and surgical procedures has led the American public to seek reliable nutrition information. Since the physician is highly respected by the lay person, he/ she is understandably renowned as a reliable nutrition educator. Consequently, the physician is often sought after for answers to nutrition- related issues. However, due to a limited background in nutrition, the physician may not be able to supply the needed information to his patients. This may be the result of inadequate nutrition training in medical school. When nutrition education is present in medical schools, it is communicated in a variety of ways. Inadequate information has been collected as to which method of introducing nutrition concepts imparts the greatest knowledge and subsequent attitude concerning nutrition. This study was conducted to investigate the influence of method of nutrition training on the nutrition knowledge and attitudes of second year medical students. The steps necessary to complete this investigation were: (1) a review of the literature pertaining to nutrition education in medical schools; (2) a review of previous studies relating to the nutrition knowledge and attitudes of various professional and non-professional groups; (3) a review of current textbooks and journal articles to formulate basic concepts in fundamental and applied nutrition; (4) construction of nutrition knowledge questions based on the concepts; (5) a review of textbooks and journal articles pertaining to Osgoodis (32) semantic differential; (6) development of an attitude survey following the form of Osgood's semantic differential; (7) evaluation of the nutrition knowledge questions by a panel of experts to determine the degree of importance for the medical student to know; (8) revisions of the instrument to result in a questionnaire containing 46 knowledge questions and six attitude concepts; (9) administration of the instrument to 62 second year medical students; (10) the division of the 62 students into two groups according to their having had a formal nutrition course (the yes-nutrition group, Group II) or having had nutrition content integrated into other medical school courses (the no-nutrition group, Group I); and (11) statistical analysis of the data. In comparing mean scores between the two groups in total, fundamental, and applied nutrition knowledge, the results were as follows: the yes-nutrition group (Group II) scored significantly higher than the no-nutrition group (Group I) in total (33.48 versus 31.62, p <.10) and in applied (11.44 versus 10.16, p <,01) nutrition knowledge. The yes- nutrition group (Group II) scored higher than the no-nutrition group (Group I) in fundamental nutrition knowledge, but this difference was not significant. Mean scores for each attitude concept were compared between the two groups with no significant differences. Correlation coefficients were computed between scores for total, fundamental, and applied nutrition knowledge and the six attitude concepts for each group. The six concepts consisted of the following: (1) dietitian; (2) physician as a nutrition educator; (3) nutrition courses in medical schools; (4) diet counseling of patients; (5) diet prescriptions; and (6) American food habits. For the no-nutrition group (Group I), fundamental nutrition knowledge showed significant negative relationships with attitude concepts 3, 4, and 5, Applied nutrition knowledge showed a significant positive relationship with concept 1 and a negative relationship with concept 2. For the yes-nutrition group (Group II), total and fundamental nutrition knowledge showed significant positive relationships with attitude concepts 4, 5, and 6, Applied nutrition knowledge was positively related to attitude concepts 4 and 5. Based on the analysis of the data, it was concluded that second year medical students scored higher in nutrition knowledge when their undergraduate or medical school background included a formal nutrition course. These same students showed a positive correlation between attitudes toward certain concepts concerning nutrition and nutrition knowledge. Those who had no formal nutrition course had a negative correlation or no correlation between knowledge and attitude. Neither group had very positive attitudes to the concepts studied, one exception being "dietitian" which was viewed positively. This is suggestive of the need for a formal nutrition course within the medical school curriculum to increase the nutrition knowledge attained and to possibly turn negative attitudes into positive attitudes toward certain concepts.


Includes bibliographical references.


v, 82 pages




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