Summary: Silvia Valisena, a participant in the ESME Student Online course reflects on the experience, and considers how learning the principles of medical education fosters a more aware and responsible attitude towards one’s own education, towards patients, and strengthens the collaboration with teachers and with peers.

Description: Two months have passed since the pilot ESME Student Online course that I had the pleasure to participate in came to an end. Medical students at different stages of their studies, and from many countries around the world participated in the course with much interest and enthusiasm to learn the principles of medical education from great experts in this field.

We explored the role and competencies required for the future doctor to be a good teacher, the learning outcomes, teaching and learning strategies to achieve them, alongside considerations of assessment and the organisation of the curriculum. Despite the online interface, the structure of the course and the contagious enthusiasm of teachers and participants encouraged the sharing of ideas and the collation of different experiences. Webinars and online forum groups enhanced the learning process because we could discuss the principles with our teachers and peers.

The discussions brought reflection and an internalisation of the cornerstones of medical education. We sought to apply the ideas to our schools, sharing example of the strengths and weaknesses of the education we receive in our own countries. The advantage of the heterogeneity in students’ level and origin was the contribution each student could give by sharing his/her experience, the priority educational needs felt and hopes for the future. Students’ experiences were a source of inspiration for the rest of the group, providing the impetus to improve the situation in one’s own school. Furthermore, a sense of collaboration developed between participants: students posted educational concerns, so that the others could express how they could approach the problem.

Knowing the principles of medical education from the perspective of the teacher was surely helpful to understand what and how to improve our knowledge and skills and to become conscious of our attitudes. We learnt the competencies and outcomes we must strive to achieve during our training. But we also became conscious of the strategy that can be adopted to achieve the goal, so we can better understand the aims of our teachers. Another advantage is that we can help our peers more efficiently, and do an effective teamwork with them.

These activities, together with the assignments, enhanced our reflection upon the importance of applying medical education principles in order to become better and competent doctors, capable of responding to the health needs of the population we will serve. I think that knowing these principles can help us to become more and more aware of the responsibility we have for our education and towards our patients. Medical education can’t be just a fragile house with only one compartment containing medical knowledge; it should be a well-organised house with firm foundations, as the better the house the better the quality of life. In the same way, the better the education, the better the impact of future graduates on patients’ health and on health delivery systems. It is commendable that students, and not only their teachers, are given the instruments to become aware and responsible for their education. In this way the collaboration between teachers and students, between generations of doctors, is facilitated and strengthened with positive results.

Silvia Valisena
Postgraduate Student
University of Padua, Italy