Based on a review of the literature pertaining to sociology teaching in medical education, this paper asks why does the problem of relevance with regards to sociology teaching in medical education still persist? And is there any change in sight? The literature suggests that epistemological understandings of medicine as represented by the biomedical model are deeply entrenched with far reaching consequences for sociology teaching. Notions of the social components of medicine as ‘irrelevant’ or ‘common sense’ have over time been reinforced by students’ expectations of medicine on entering medical education; by the attitudes of clinical and biomedical staff members who can act as negative role models and by institutional barriers including the organization of curricula content, decisions about ‘who teaches what’, timetabling and assessment. Changing such deeply ingrained practices may be an insurmountable task for educators working alone in individual medical schools. However, pedagogical changes emphasizing ‘integration’ and a growing understanding within medicine and higher education of alternative epistemologies predicated on social paradigms, means that increasingly, persons from different disciplinary and professional backgrounds share similar understandings about the complexities of medical care. As associated ideas filter into medical education new opportunities are arising to challenge collectively the structural forces at play which in turn could lead to a major shift in medical students’ thinking. If sociologists are to have a role in guiding the transmission of sociological ideas about health and illness it is crucial to understand and take part in these developments.



Publication Date


Publication Title

Default journal

Organisational Unit

Peninsula Medical School


Sociology, Medical Education