Students' Report of Preceptor Weight Management Counseling at Eight U.S. Medical Schools

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Quantitative Health Sciences, Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine; UMass Worcester Prevention Research Center

Publication Date


Document Type



Behavioral Medicine | Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Medical Education | Preventive Medicine | Primary Care


INTRODUCTION: Primary care providers, using brief counseling, can help patients increase motivation to initiate or maintain weight loss, improve diet, and increase physical activity. However, no prior studies have examined the degree to which primary care preceptors, who are responsible for mentoring medical students during their core clerkships, provide clinical teaching regarding weight management counseling.

METHODS: Medical students enrolled in eight U.S. medical schools who had finished their preclinical coursework completed surveys in the spring of 2016 to assess preceptor communication, modeling, feedback, and instruction in weight management counseling, as well as educational cues for patients and chart reminders for physicians. Analysis was completed in 2017 and 2018.

RESULTS: Of 738 students completing the survey, the most recent completed clerkships were obstetrics and gynecology (38.1%), family medicine (32.1%), and internal medicine (29.8%). Students in family medicine clerkships reported higher levels of weight management counseling clinical teaching than students completing an internal medicine or obstetrics and gynecology clerkship. Among the main variables of interest across all three clerkships, only 13%-24% of students agreed that preceptors provided clear objectives for learning weight management counseling, and 13%-25% of students agreed that preceptors provided feedback.

CONCLUSIONS: Even with a U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation for primary care physicians to provide weight management counseling and endorsement from the major academic primary care societies, students in primary care clerkships report receiving little weight management counseling clinical teaching from their preceptors. The results reinforce the need for medical educators to teach and model weight management counseling for physicians-in-training if they are to achieve Task Force goals. Further research is required to better corroborate self-reported indicators of preceptor to student communication that are described herein.

DOI of Published Version



Am J Prev Med. 2018 Nov;55(5):e139-e145. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2018.06.014. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

American journal of preventive medicine

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID