By Professor Wendy J Graham and Professor Rona Patey

As the world hurtles towards the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals – with some disappointments and some successes – a massive reflective process is underway. And the key question being posed, at local and global levels and across diverse constituencies - “What is the world we want?” (http://www.worldwewant2015.org).

Such forward thinking is, of course,  a very familiar activity for academic centres of learning.

Here at the University, the forward vision is captured in the 2011-2015 Strategy – emphasising global ambitions as a global university. However one area of academia that faces particular challenges in responding rapidly to shifting needs and demands is degree curriculae, particularly with the lengthy requirements of quality assurance.

Here at the University the creation of the Sixth Century courses has provided one timely response mechanism to augment student learning and meet emerging needs for global citizenship, for example on Human Rights and on Sustainable Development (www.abdn.ac.uk/thedifference/sixth-century-courses.php).

These additional avenues have not, however, been readily available to medical students, in part owing to the very real constraints of timetabling.  But this situation is beginning to change in relation to one core area of learning – global health –  and in reponse to both student demand and the expectations of the GMC.

Medicine is a clearly a global profession framed by forces going beyond national boundaries, such as food insecurity, human migration, climate change and conflict. It follows that medical education needs to keep pace with these changes and to ensure the next generation of doctors are aware of global issues, regardless of whether they choose to work in the UK or overseas. This awareness also improves the critical thinking skills of medical graduates, enables them to empathise more with patients from diverse backgrounds, and strengthens their ability to understand the challenges faced by different types of health systems beyond the NHS.

From November this year, the first of several pathways to learning on global health are being integrated into the University of Aberdeen’s MBChB curriculum.

The new 6-week module will run as part of the third-year students’ Humanities Block. Tutors from across and beyond the CLSM are contributors to this – witness to the depth and breadth of Aberdeen’s own “brain trust” on global health issues. Co-ordinated by the Immpact research group in the College, the module has been designed with a number of novel features to reflect the diversity and creativity implicit in the medical humanities. 

The methods of assessment, for example, include the use of PechaKucha presentations by students (www.pechakucha.org), and running across the six weeks are lunchtime interviews with clinicians practising in the NHS who have successfully combined their UK career with global health engagement. In the final week, there will be fascinating open sessions on conducting student electives overseas (December 18th), and a panel interview (December 19th) with Dr Roelf Dijkhuisen, Medical Director of NHS Grampian, and Mr Alec Cumming, formerly NHS Trust Chief Executive Officer, on “Why is a global health learning important to the NHS”.

In the truly inclusive spirit of global health, many sessions are being thrown open to all students and to staff. The Going Global seminar series will run each Wednesday lunchtime (1300-1350) at Foresterhill. The first seminar will be given by the Principal, Professor Sir Ian Diamond, on Wednesday November 13th and will engage the audience on the topic of “Population and health challenges in the 21st century”.

For further details on this and other events, please contact the module administrator Lisa Elumalai (lisa.elumalai@abdn.ac.uk)

We would like to hear from other staff within the College who are passionate about global health and who may be interested in contributing to future learning pathways for our medical students. We invite you to become engaged in Going Global. To remind you of this open request, we are creating an image gallery through the CLSM Bulletin and website, simply called “A picture which speaks a thousand words”.  We invite images from your own work which you feel capture global health. The first contribution to the gallery comes from a district hospital in West Africa.  We look forward to receiving others.