Looking beneath the surface of leadership, engagement and medical education

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Oben Sussy Ebah, a level 200 medical student at the faculty of health sciences, University of Buea, Cameroon. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Students are the primary stakeholders for the establishment, building and concretization of education. Paying key focus to medical students, they play a major role in developing, effectuating and evaluating their education. With regards to medical education, meaningful youth engagement is a participatory process where student’s ideas, innovations and perspectives are integrated in the policies, programs and institutional decision making so as to produce the best outcomes beneficial to both their education and their communit

Firstly there’s no meaningful engagement without good leadership.  Youths are considered as tomorrow’s visionary builders, which can only be established via meaningful engagement in leadership opportunities. Leadership is one of the most important skills for a medical student as it trains them to provide the best possible care for patients.

According to Abraham Flexner’s article “on the eras of medical education dating from the 1900, medical education over the past centuries has undergone reformations and innovations which can be termed as acceleration in medical education, thus making it difficult for physicians to adapt to these advancements.

This brings out the importance of youth leadership in improving medical education. Leadership is setting directions and motivating others to embrace it. If there’s increase in meaningful youth engagement in leadership, it will give room for a broader scope and zone for learning. Youth leaders should be able to create a free and open era of education where elder physicians get to teach the upcoming ones on the knowledge, skills and experience they gained across their years of studies and practice, while the youths teach the elder ones on the advancements in health facilities. These create an intergenerational learning platform.

Most of the time medical students don’t engage in leadership activities with the excuse of being too busy as they advance in their years of studies forgetting that the higher you get into medicine the more important it is to engage in leadership programs. Because at times being in your senior years in medicine gives you a ground you can use to teach the younger ones. Never forget the more you teach, the more you learn. And once demonstrating how as students we have the possibility to improve the amount of knowledge we receive which is not just from a classroom.

Statistics from research conducted from different medicine schools in Saudi Arabia showed the different percentages of their self-perception of good leadership skills. The students indicated that good leadership skills in the medicine field especially requires integrity (47.9%), conflict resolution (46.7%), organization  (44.4%), confidence (41.9%) ,communication (40.5%), self-reflection (40.2%),time management  (33.6%), the ability to motivate others (36.9%),the ability to keep calm under stress (33.3%) .

Some highlighted difficulties faced in medical education especially in Africa are; too little preliminary education and clinical work by students , too few test of practical work , too short a time of actual work and study and too much didactic work by the teachers . All these factors have slowed down the advancements of medical education. 

As medical students, the greatest place to learn is not in a class, but by acquiring skills by learning from the elder physicians and other professionals, teaching and involving in health campaigns and so on .these can be simplified by the creation of more “non-governmental nonprofit making organizations” which would serve as a communication route between all medical students and medical practitioners.  All of these are ways to demonstrate how more responsible medical students are as stakeholders in medical education than the governments or other local leaders, all relying and depending on making use of youth leadership and meaningful youth engagement. 

Young people are not only the leaders of tomorrow, they are the leaders of today; their opportunities, needs and choices regarding health, rights and well-being will define and shape our tomorrow. Leadership and engagement are not just words but criteria which entail sacrifice and commitment, and   should characterize every youth in the better world we envision for our generation. 

About the author

Oben Sussy Ebah is a level 200 medical student at the faculty of health sciences, University of Buea. She is from the Manyu division, Southwest region, Cameroon. She is a youth who finds joy and satisfaction in writing. She has participated in many other essay and article competition where she did not just gain knowledge but skills. She is very good at both French and English, both the written and spoken sections. She also participated in the international essay writing competition “What is Life” and in many state organized essays writing competition in French where she emerged amongst the best and was awarded by the Governor of her region. She also participated in the common wealth essay writing competition. Not to mention the international French competition which included both writing and public speaking “Ma Plume Ma Voie” , where amongst students from different countries, she emerged the fifth on roll, just to mention a few. She is an enthusiastic youth who believes in the power of impacting the world through writing. She believes in the power of her words which she shares through every paragraph of her essays. She strives on utilizing her training and admiration for both medicine and writing to create a healthier tomorrow where everyone’s voice counts. She is a resident in Buea, Cameroon. You can get to her via;

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