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PeArLS: Towards coherent curricula in somatisation (aka functional illness 'BDS' or 'MUS')

  • 27 May 2021
  • 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM (AEST)
  • Zoom (link TBA via email)


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Towards coherent curricula in somatisation (aka functional illness 'BDS' or 'MUS')

Presenter: A/Prof Hamish Wilson


Somatisation or functional illness account for 5-20% of patient presentations in all specialties. Also referred to Bodily Distress Syndrome (BDS) as historically as ‘medically unexplained symptoms’ (MUS), these symptoms appear to be caused by maladaptive functioning of body systems without ongoing underlying tissue or organ damage. Previous research on student learning confirms a relative absence of formal curricula within medical undergraduate curricula for these illnesses. Through the learning culture of the hidden curriculum, students often acquire negative attitudes to these patients, which may impact on their clinical efficacy. However, current clinical research suggests that better explanatory models for such patients may become available. 


  • To compare and explore educators’ (in various health professions) experiences of training, clinical practice and developing curricula for functional illness 
  • To explore potential educational approaches that may help our future graduates have more competence and confidence with such patients or clients.

Associate Professor Hamish Wilson has worked at the Otago Medical School since 1996, initially running postgraduate courses for GPs.  Since 2008, he has convened a programme for junior students called Early Professional Experience. He is also a GP in Dunedin with an interest in reflective practice and so called ‘difficult’ patients.

Names:  Hamish Wilson,1 Tony Dowell,Brett Mann,Martyn Williamson,and Nigel Thompson.1

Origins:  1Otago Medical School, Dunedin, New Zealand; 2Wellington School of Medicine, Otago Medical School; 3Ilam Medical Centre, Christchurch, New Zealand. 

PeArLS session style: The presenter and participants are equals who gather to discuss a common problem. The initial “presentation” be minimal (5 mins, 3 slides) and is framed around a challenging question or an issue that the presenter is grappling with.


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