versão impressa ISSN 0185-3325
VARGAS, Ingrid et al. Comprehensive profile of candidates to the High Academic Performance Program (PAEA) of the Faculty of Medicine at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). Salud Ment [online]. 2010, vol.33, n.5, pp. 389-396. ISSN 0185-3325.
The importance to assess in a comprehensive way the cognitive, emotional, personal and social features of the students entering medical school is recognized nowadays in order to select from the candidates, not just those with high cognitive abilities, but also the ones with a vocation and interest in the study of this science. These are characteristics that should be specially sought among the students of high performance academic groups. In the Department of Medicine, as it is in some other departments at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), there is a special plan called High Academic Performance Program (PAEA), which aims to test innovative teaching models to generate health resources able to operate in special working conditions. Medicine students enrolled at the PAEA have a particular schedule which includes, in addition to the program established at the regular curriculum, some other specific activities, meaning greater demand for them. These special training includes activities such as: early introduction to research labs, based-problem learning, methodology workshops, introductory course in computing, and personalized assistance from academic tutors. It is because of these peculiar features, that, with this study, we aim to determine the profile of the students of the PAEA from the analysis and comparison of the candidates' characteristics. Materials and methods This was a comparative cross-sectional study that included all the first entry students at the Department of Medicine who applied to enter the selection process of the PAEA at the 2009-2010 period. These candidates were required to ask voluntarily to be included in the selection process to be part of PAEA, and to demonstrate at least a high school grade of 8.5, and to complete the assessment instruments. For this study, the assessment instruments used were: Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2), Differential Aptitude Test (DAT) sub-scale of abstract reasoning, and a semi-structured interview designed specifically for this evaluation. The variables considered for this research were: • Sociodemographic characteristics: All those features that define the economical, social and demographic situation of a person or population. • Academic background: All the information of studies and activities that the student has done throughout his/her school years. • Vocational features: Preferences, perceptions and attitudes of the student for his/her own autonomous choice of career or profession. • Personality traits: Generalized and focused mental systems that have the ability to convert external stimuli to guide different forms of behaviors. • Abstract reasoning: Mental process that allows people to solve logic problems, forecasting and planning. Data obtained from the instruments were analyzed with descriptive statistics, multiple linear regression, logistic regression, cluster analysis and factor analysis. Results The study included 194 candidates (100 of them were accepted to be included at the PAEA). In general, the studied population had a greater percentage of women (61.86%) and a mean age of 18.35 + 1.5 years old. Around a quarter of this population studied high school at Escuela Nacional Preparatoria (National High School), but it was observed that the highest percentage (20.1%) of students accepted to enter PAEA had the antecedent of being graduate from private high schools with high academic standards. This last finding is important since the candidates from these private schools are students who not only have access to a history of multiple academic and extracurricular activities, but they also come with certain academic stimulation, and so, it is expected that they have developed strategies to contend in competitive environments. The average grade of high school was lightly higher for the group of accepted students (9.27+0.41) than for those not accepted (9.13+0.47). Compared to those who were not accepted, more students in the group of accepted candidates were fluent in English (46.91%), French (1 4.43%) or other foreign language (3.61 %) besides Spanish. The personality profile obtained from the MMPI-2 was similar for both groups of candidates, accepted and not accepted. It was determined that accepted students were characterized by: having high energy and strength to achieve their goals, being sociable but with little commitment to the others, questioning the statu quo, being creative. However, within this group it was also observed that there was a tendency to manipulate other people to get what they wanted and that some of their behaviors may be governed by impulsivity. The group of candidates not accepted to the Program seemed to have the same personality features with greater energy, which could lead them into disarray. Characteristics such as social introversion and hypochondriasis have been aspects of interest in some previous studies. Both personality features have revealed significant long-term predictors, whether to have an adequate academic performance (associated to low levels of both social introversion and hypochondriasis) or to develop any psychopathology (related to high levels of social introversion and hypochondriasis). For this population, professional interests were directed towards the medical practice, while teaching was not considered as a priority interest (but it prevailed in the group of not accepted). Promotion of humanitarian aid discriminated those accepted candidates. At least 10% of the students in the group of accepted candidates said that they could see themselves having a successful future. The difference in interests within these students reflects distinct experiences in each group, and therefore dissimilar life projects that make them having diverse perspectives of present and future circumstances. The fact that the group of approved candidates has high motivation for success is consistent with their acceptance to be part of a group of high performance. However, it may be advisable to promote a training throughout their social awareness in order to enable them to have an overall performance of their profession. The best predictors of acceptance were: the rating of the overall review of knowledge (an exam that every first entry student does at the beginning of Medicine School) and the score of DAT's abstract reasoning, which correlated with r = 0.485. It is important to say that neither the grade of high school nor the age were good predictors to be accepted to PAEA. Conclusions Since PAEA seeks to select students with characteristics and skills that enable them to function in the field of medicine under a high rate of academic achievement, it is expected that, as it was confirmed in this research, accepted students where those who had greater cognitive abilities, who were fluent in other languages, with interest focused on successful clinical practice and research, and with less concern about socio-economical aspects of their environment. However, there are still many questions regarding the defining characteristics of this population and the way these features will impact their education. It is necessary to continue characterizing and studying the groups of students entering PAEA, and follow up their outcome in order to determine if the evaluated aspects have an influence on their academic performance during medical school.
Palavras-chave : Medical students; personality traits; cognitive characteristics; sociodemographic features.