A Nationwide Virtual Research Education Program for Medical Students in Pakistan: Methodological Framework, Feasibility Testing, and Outcomes

Ali Aahil Noorali, Maha Inam, Hamna Shahbaz, Hareem Rauf, Faiqa Binte Aamir, Farah Khalid, Saadia Abbas, Abdullah Saeed, Muhammad Daniyal Musharraf, Asma Altaf Hussain Merchant, Babar S. Hasan, Muneera A. Rasheed, Fyezah Jehan, Muhammad Tariq, Adil Hussain Haider

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Equipping young medical trainees with fundamental research skills can be a promising strategy to address the need for professionals who can understand and responsibly communicate evolving scientific evidence during a pandemic. Despite an ardent interest to partake in research, most educational institutions in Pakistan and other low-middle income countries have not yet adopted a comprehensive strategy for research skills education. The authors aimed to design and assess the feasibility of implementing the first nation-wide virtual research workshop for medical students in Pakistan. Methods: The course “Beginners Guide to Research,” designed as a nation-wide virtual research workshop series, was conducted for medical students across Pakistan in June 2020. Four interactive live workshops took place online on alternate days from June 22nd, 2020, to June 27th, 2020, each lasting 1–2 h. Outcomes included: (i) reach, (ii) efficacy as indexed by pre-post change in score pertaining to knowledge and application of research and (iii) self-rated perceptions about understanding of research on a Likert scale. Results: 3,862 participants enrolled from 41 cities and 123 institutions. Enrolled participants belonged to the following provinces: Sindh (n = 1,852, 48.0%), Punjab (n = 1,767, 45.8%), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (n = 109, 2.8%), Azad Jammu and Kashmir (n = 84, 2.2%) Balochistan (n = 42, 1.1%). We also saw a few registrations from international students (n = 8, 0.2%). Mean (SD) age of enrolled medical students was 21.1 (2.1) years, 2,453 (63.5%) participants were female and 2,394 (62.0%) were from private-sector medical colleges. Two thousand ninety-three participants participants filled out all four pre-test and post-test forms. The total median knowledge score improved from 39.7 to 60.3% with the highest improvements in concepts of research bioethics and literature search (p < 0.001) with greater change for females compared to males (+20.6 vs. +16.2%, p < 0.001) and private institutions compared to public ones (+16.2 vs. +22.1%, p < 0.001). Conclusion: The overwhelming enrollment and significant improvement in learning outcomes (>50% of baseline) indicate feasibility of a medical student-led research course during a pandemic, highlighting its role in catering to the research needs in the LMICs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number812130
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2022


  • feasibility
  • medical students
  • public health
  • research teaching
  • virtual course


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