13 October 2014

Welcome to the Medical Education Blog

Professor Lesley Roberts, Pro Dean Education

This is the first of what I hope will be many blogs created by faculty and students (with maybe a smattering of guest bloggers) within the School. I hope this will act as a forum for you to learn a little more about the staff you work with and for us to do the same about your experiences as a Warwick medical student.

I perhaps need to start with an introduction. I joined WMS in July, taking over the role of Pro Dean Education from Professor Neil Johnson. This was a big move for me, having spent almost the last 20 years working in the Medical School at Birmingham.

The schools are very different in size, age and of course in terms of school leaver versus graduate entry. My new role expands far beyond the MB ChB and I have responsibility for our educational delivery, development and strategy including our postgraduate programmes and other professional training.

Being new has given me the opportunity to really reflect on the experience our new first years are going through. Despite having previously uprooted and engaged in University education the transfer to a significantly different programme of study in a new place, with new people is undoubtedly stressful – and this year just for added fun we have the complexities of trying to move around the obstacle course that road works have made of campus! I am sure the same applies albeit to a lesser extent as you move into each new phase of the course and rotate around different hospitals and other sites and experience new specialties.

What has struck me, however, is the way in which others have gone out of their way to make me feel at home. I know the same occurs every year in medical schools everywhere as those in later years share knowledge and survival info with the new starters. For me this process is ongoing, as my absolute lack of any sense of direction still sees me wandering aimlessly around the building looking for rooms and, indeed on more than one occasion, wandering around campus in search of my car. So if you do see a rather frazzled looking woman and know the whereabouts of a black VW beetle do point me in the right direction!

The other opportunity new starts provide us with is the chance to reflect on our strengths and weaknesses and I encourage you all at this point in the year to stop and take check for a minute to identify whether there are any changes you can make to facilitate your learning and daily work.

One of the biggest challenges we face is that the world is now in such a period of rapid progression and we therefore need to repeatedly force ourselves to stop and reflect in this way.

As doctors of the future it is difficult to envisage what the state of medicine will be towards the end of your careers – when I started working most memos were still delivered to my office on paper and tracking down a reference involved hours of laborious work in the library. Now if I don’t know something Google usually helps me out and if I need something one of my Facebook friends inevitably is in possession of it. But such resources place increasing pressure on our time and open up new challenges to medicine as patients no only self-diagnose but also turn to the internet for medication, screening kits and self-help.

Last year I undertook some research into the impact of self-harm websites – many facilitated recovery and helped create the sense of community that many individuals who were harming felt was absent from their lives – but obviously the impact of the internet on health can be negative as well as positive. Your role as doctors is therefore vast – skills in diagnosis and treatment need to be underpinned by a sense of society, culture and what it really means to be human. Those of you starting to plan electives will have the opportunities to explore a whole raft of other impacts on health and the innovation required to deliver care in poorly resourced settings.

The key to success is reflecting, sharing and remaining solution-focused and this is what I hope to do in my new role. We are a community who have vast experience and have experienced education in a host of settings and disciplines. I hope together we can continue our own evolution (which sounds so much better than mutation!) to create a school in which we all thrive.

So I end this ramble with an invitation for your thoughts. If you are a new entrant let’s hear about your first few weeks, if you are in later years what are the things that you wished someone had told you. What lessons or experiences have you previously had that might help us continue to evolve and improve?

I hope to meet many of you in the forthcoming months and years (The Dean’s breakfasts are going to continue this year and provide a forum for some of you to chat with us and I will be trying to meet many of the final year students to learn what I can from you). I have always felt that every year I learnt more from students than I could ever have taught them and I sincerely hope this continues at Warwick.

Best wishes, good luck and good health.


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