Background: Little time is devoted to sexual health in medical school curricula. We examined the use of a student-led extracurricular group to promote interest in sexual health assessment and STI testing during preclinical years.
Methods: Wake Forest Sexual Health Awareness Group (SHAG) was formed in 2011 in partnership with Forsyth County Department of Public Health (FCDPH). SHAG facilitated annual trainings for medical students focused on sexual history taking, behavioral risk assessment, and STI screening. Students conducted counseling and STI screenings alongside FCDPH employees at outreach sites providing testing for syphilis, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis C (HCV) and genital Neisseria gonorrhoeae (GC) and Chlamydia trachomatis (CT). Provider-collected pharyngeal and patient-collected rectal testing for GC/CT were added in 2014.
Results: Student participation increased annually from 25 students in 2011 to 68 in 2015. 95% of trainees were preclinical medical students. Volunteer sites included a free clinic and a children’s shelter in 2011 and expanded to three universities, a student-run community health fair, and a LGBT pride event. Between September 2015 and March 2016, 64.7% of students trained in 2015 volunteered at least once during 57 volunteer opportunities. SHAG involvement significantly increased HIV/syphilis testing (i.e. 49% at one site). From August 2014 to September 2015, 464 GC/CT (334 urine/vaginal, 103 pharyngeal, 27 rectal) and 32 HCV tests were performed at 2 university sites; 531 GC/CT tests (455 urine/vaginal, 65 pharyngeal, 11 rectal) were performed between September 2013 and September 2015 at the third university site.
Conclusions: This student-led group in partnership with FCDPH provided experiential sexual health training while augmenting FCDPH’s testing capacity. Growing participation in trainings demonstrates medical students’ desire to learn more about sexual health during preclinical years and supports this model as an effective mechanism of introducing students to the topic.