Teaching medical parasitology in a new Physician Associate master’s programme.




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The programme of Physician Associate (PA) is a relatively new Master (MSc) in the United Kingdom (UK) to train future health care professionals that will work under the supervision of a medical doctor as part of a medical team. Although PAs cannot prescribe, they will provide crucial support to doctors by dealing with patients in general practitioner surgeries or hospitals. The UK Department of Health (DoH) in collaboration with the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of General Practitioners has stablished the Competence and Curriculum Framework for the physician associate qualification. The minimum length of the programme is 90 weeks, equivalent to 3,150 hours of nominal study time, with a minimum of 1,600 hours assigned to clinical learning. The DoH also has published the matrix specification of core clinical requirements for the PA, in which the competences for diagnosing and managing different medical conditions are described. In relation to human parasitic infections, the core clinical conditions for PAs have been divided into different categories as follows: 1A) is able to diagnose and manage, without referral, threadworms (Enterobius vermicularis) and hookworms (Ancylostoma duodenale and Necator americanus); 1B) is able to identify and take measures to avoid immediate deterioration of amebiasis (Entamoeba histolytica) and malaria (Plasmodium spp.); and 2B) is able to undertake the day-to-day management of the patient when diagnoses has been made for toxoplasmosis (Toxoplasma gondii). De Montfort University (DMU, Leicester, UK) has launched the MSc Physician Associate Studies as part of its curricula in 2017/18. In order to develop clinical medical parasitology skills and reflection/critical thinking of the PA students, we have developed and implemented a two hour workshop in the module “Community Health”, in which PA students (n=12) have used the novel website resource DMU e-Parasitology to resolve two highly interactive virtual clinical case studies related to Entamoeba histolytica and Plasmodium spp. The DMU e-Parasitology, which is being developed by three European universities, is aimed to facilitate the teaching and learning of parasitology and it is publicly available through the DMU website: http://parasitology.dmu.ac.uk. Briefly, the virtual case studies provide the user with a medical history of a patient and different clinical slides to diagnose the parasitic diseases by their identifiable structures and characteristics using a virtual microscope. The user will navigate through different interactive questions and mini quizzes to reach diagnoses, management, treatment and tailor prevention techniques for the case study proposed. The workshop was well-received by PA students, as evidenced by their favourable evaluation. The PA students that completed the voluntary questionnaire indicated that the design used to build the module of the virtual case studies was appropriate (50% agreed, 50% strongly agreed). A similar percentage reported that the exercises and assessments presented were easy to understand and appropriate for their studies (75% agreed, 25% strongly agreed). Finally, participants indicated that they gained appropriate knowledge of the pathology, prevention and treatment of malaria and amebiasis (25% agreed, 75% strongly agreed). This paper describes tools, methods and strategies that can be easily adopted for implementing new ways of teaching and learning medical parasitology and clinical skills.


The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.


Physician associate, Virtual clinical case studies, DMU e-Parasitology, Medical parasitology.


Peña-Fernández, A. and Peña, M.A. (2018) Teaching medical parasitology in a new Physician Associate master’s programme. ICERI2018 Proceedings, pp.5229-5234.


Research Institute

Leicester Institute for Pharmaceutical Innovation - From Molecules to Practice (LIPI)