On Youth Education: “Just a normal day in the life of a medical student”

European Youth Insights is a platform provided by the European Youth Forum and the European Sting, to allow young people to air their views on issues that matter to them. Written by Rachel Bruls, medical student at the University of Amsterdam and Regional Assistant for Medical Education in Europe for the IFMSA

Ms. Rachel Bruls is a medical student at the University of Amsterdam and Regional Assistant for  Medical Education in Europe for the IFMSA

Ms. Rachel Bruls is a medical student at the University of Amsterdam and Regional Assistant for
Medical Education in Europe for the IFMSA

And there I found myself again, sitting in a huge lecture hall full of peers, just a normal day in the life of a medical student. All closely listening to the microbiology professor and taking notes. But hey… is that what was really going on here? Taking a closer look at what was happening; the professor talking about different types of E. Coli. At the same time I could see my fellow students reading the newspaper, checking their Facebook and whispering to each other about past weekend. Exactly, just a normal day in the life of a medical student.

We trust the students we send to med school to become omniscient doctors. These students are supposed to gain a lot of knowledge in six years; six years to know how to save lives. Fortunately, the example above is not the only way we med students get taught all that important information. We practice skills, we do role play, we have interactive sessions and in those last years of study we go to the clinics, where doctors guide us in becoming doctors ourselves.

But isn’t a doctor much more than just someone who cures people? My curriculum thinks so, and that’s why it’s based on the world famous CanMEDS model. This model says a medical expert is someone who masters six roles; professional, communicator, collaborator, manager, scholar and health advocate.

Though, sitting in my microbiology lecture, I realized one of the roles was missing. Yes, attending the lectures and learning all the medical details will make me a professional, my role play classes will teach me to be a communicator, team-based learning will help me to become a collaborator, research internships will pave the way to becoming a scholar and during the clinics I will get to know how to be a manager in healthcare. Where did the health advocate go?

This is where the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) stepped into my curriculum. Being an active member of this international organization taught me to be a health advocate. And that’s not all, it also enhanced the other roles of the CanMEDS model. IFMSA didn’t do that by giving normal lectures, they did it by something that is called non-formal education.

Non-formal education is any organized educational activity outside the established formal system – whether operating separately or as an important feature of some broader activity – that is intended to serve identifiable learning clienteles and learning objectives.

The IFMSA trains medical students in soft skills, leadership and global health. We organize exchanges around the world. We organize activities to change the face of medicine globally, nationally and locally. We give students the chance to go to conferences and talk to medical professionals. All of this is non-formal education and all of this changes medical students. It makes them better health advocates, managers, communicators, collaborators, professionals and scholars.

Students can almost not believe it. Doing all these things they love to do and calling this education. Non-formal education is a very valuable way of learning. Unfortunately, this isn’t seen by many medical schools yet. There is no recognition of these wonderful opportunities for students in most medical schools.

And this is what we want! We want non-formal education, extracurricular activities, to be recognized by medical schools. Reward the students that voluntarily work towards better health care and at the same time grow in every role of the CanMEDS model.

I have a dream that future medical students are sitting in their microbiology lecture. Listening to the professor talking about different types of E. Coli. And instead of reading the newspaper or checking Facebook, students are talking about next week’s conference on microbiology where they will advocate for conservative use of antibiotics to decrease antibiotic resistance and where they will be supported by their university.

Let this be just a normal day in the life of a future medical student.

About the author

Rachel Bruls is a medical student at the University of Amsterdam and Regional Assistant for Medical Education in Europe for the IFMSA

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