There is concern that undergraduate medical students are not exposed to appropriate opportunities to learn and understand the fundamental principles of epidemiology. In this study the aim was to explore students' and tutors' perceptions of the epidemiology teaching in the first three years of the Aberdeen, UK, medical undergraduate curriculum, with particular reference to the teaching in the Community Course. The study adopted a qualitative approach: six individual interviews and two focus-group meetings with quota samples of medical students in the fourth year, and one focus-group meeting with a purposive sample of Community Course tutors. It was found that most students acknowledged difficulty in learning epidemiology because they perceive the topic to be dry, boring and difficult to understand. However, there is a dawning awareness that it is important and its relevance becomes more obvious to students as they progress through the medical course, especially if they have undertaken an intercalated BSc Medical Sciences degree. Students want practical and clinically relevant teaching. Most students are exam driven and will only make efforts to learn topics that are assessed. Tutors also find epidemiology to be difficult and want their teaching to be clinically relevant.