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Medical students in global classrooms

Thursday 28 July 2016 10:56am

Global classroom chch image
Students in Christchurch take part in a Global Health Classroom session.

Students from Christchurch and Nepal are interacting via videoconference to share experiences in a world first.

Fifth-year students at Patan Academy of Health Sciences (PAHS) go on six-month postings to remote rural hospitals. Medical school teachers began using teleconferencing for case-based teaching – or a virtual classroom - a few years ago to maintain contact and educational guidance with these student groups on remote placements.

Professor David Murdoch is the incoming Dean of the University of Otago, Christchurch (UOC). He has a long history of working and doing research in Nepal, and is a friend and colleague of the Dean of PAHS, Professor Shrijana Shrestha.

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Nepalese students discuss a diagnosis via videoconference.

In 2015, Professor Murdoch visited Prof Shrestha and learned of the virtual classroom. The pair decided to trial a further “virtual” connection between student groups in Nepal and Christchurch to share case-based medical learning. And the Global Health Classroom was born.

The student groups at each site prepare for the virtual session by working up a local case presentation, then discuss its diagnosis and management via videoconference.

Professor Murdoch says three sessions have run so far. Students groups at PAHS and UOC have participated in collaborative learning on cases of childhood diarrhoea, cases of acute cough in children, and depression in adults.

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Dr Ashis Shrestha

He says bi-directionality is a core principle of the initiative and the Global Health Classroom is benefiting both parties, as it gives insights into how other health systems work and how patients access healthcare. For example, medical students in remote parts of Nepal have to learn about clinical diagnosis and treatment of patients in environments with limited access to diagnostic tools such as CT scans or laboratory tests. The case presentations from UOC student groups have also shown the priority of clinical diagnosis, rather than special tests, in the work-up of patients in New Zealand. The Global Health Classroom exposes students from both countries to different health priorities.

With funding from the University’s Otago International Office, PAHS lecturer and emergency specialist Dr Ashis Shrestha visited Christchurch as part of the development of the Global Health Classroom. His New Zealand counterpart, Dr Andrew Miller who has been driving the initiative on the University of Otago’s Christchurch campus, visited Nepal.

The Global Health Classroom concept has been taken up by the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine, where lecturers Dr Susan Jack and Faumuina Associate Professor Faafetai (Tai) Sopoaga are engaging with Samoa, through its National University of Samoa, Faculty of Medicine.