Learning by updating a Cochrane Review: teaching systematic review methods to undergraduate medical students

Date & Time
Monday, September 4, 2023, 12:30 PM - 2:00 PM
Location Name
Session Type
Capacity building in evidence synthesis
López-Alcalde J1, Antón C2, Varillas D2, Correa A2, Neira F2, Antequera A2, Prieto D2, Monge D2
1Cochrane Madrid, Universidad Francisco de Vitoria (UFV-Madrid), Clinical Biostatistics Unit, Hospital Universitario Ramón y Cajal (IRYCIS), CIBERESP, Spain
2Universidad Francisco de Vitoria, Madrid (UFV-Madrid), Spain

Background: evidence synthesis skills should be acquired during the medical degree. Since 2017 medical students at Universidad Francisco de Vitoria-Madrid (UFV), which hosts Cochrane Madrid, update Cochrane Reviews for their end-of-degree research projects.
Objectives: to describe our experience in teaching Cochrane methods in the medical degree.
Methods: we designed a subject for the last two years to guide medical students to update an intervention Cochrane review. The two-year subject (5th and 6th courses) includes theory sessions, seminars and requires student group and individual work. The teaching staff comprises one co-ordinator, five methodologists, and 20 clinical experts. Students are evaluated by attendance, participation, written essay, oral presentation, and peer assessments by other students.
Results: The last promotion enrolled 104 medical students (82.7% women) (September 2021- June 2023). Twenty Cochrane Reviews were under update. Their topics included paediatrics (25%), psychiatry (10%), gynaecology (10%), pneumology (10%), traumatology (15%), neurology (10%), pneumology (10%), endocrinology (%) and other topics (20%). The students have learnt to formulate clinical questions, search CENTRAL and PubMed, critically appraise studies, and use Review Manager 5.4 and Rayyan. Review publication is not the goal, but we anticipate the students have identified new eligible studies for the SRs. Challenges: 1) demanding subject for students and teachers; 2) explicit teaching materials are needed, and their elaboration is time-consuming; 3) reviews may not find new eligible studies; Increasing cost of review software. Opportunities: 1) focusing on intervention SRs with RCTs facilitates the process; 2) group work lightens students' burden while acquiring teamwork skills; 3) students acquire research skills and competencies for evidence-based medicine; 4) standardised teaching materials facilitate the work of teachers and students.
Conclusions: learning to update a Cochrane Review during the medical curriculum helps to acquire research skills oriented to evidence-based medicine. While challenging, this course model is successful and implementable in other universities. Patient or healthcare consumer involvement: Cochrane methods in the undergraduate curriculum helps medical students to formulate patient-oriented clinical questions. This is an essential skill for an evidence-based practice that will benefit patients.