King’s delivers innovative virtual global health elective with partners in India

King’s College London

The online pilot elective was co-designed by King’s academics with colleagues from Manipal Academy of Higher Education

Students participating in the virtual global health elective through video call.

King’s College London and Kasturba Medical College, Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE) co-designed and delivered a four-week virtual global health elective course after in-person elective exchanges between the partner institutions were not able to go ahead due to COVID-19.

In September 2019, the partner institutions had put in place plans for elective exchanges for final year medical students for the academic year 2020-21. Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the exchanges were cancelled after the first cohort placement in January 2020. To aid student mobility and knowledge exchange, a team comprising staff from both institutions worked together to develop the pilot virtual elective in global health, which is the first of its kind to be delivered in India.

The joint virtual elective focused on weekly themes, including the impact of COVID-19 on global health, infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases and maternal health care. Drawing on their experiences, clinician academics from both institutions shared insights and reflections on each of these themes. Participating students were also given the opportunity to work together in smaller groups, helping them to build social connections and enhance their intercultural understanding.

The global health elective was supported by one of the Association of Commonwealth (ACU) Medical Student Virtual Mobility Project Grants, which aim to enable cross-border collaboration without the need for physical travel, thus supporting student mobility, knowledge exchange and innovation.

Dr Ann Wylie, Lecturer in Medical Education and Deputy Director of King’s Undergraduate Medical Education in the Community, took a key role in the development of the virtual elective. Dr Wylie credited excellent team working and enthusiasm for the success of the pilot, as well as the ACU Medical Student Virtual Mobility Project grant which helped keep the team motivated and navigate the challenges they encountered.

The virtual elective provided opportunities that would not be available during a pandemic. It allowed students from two countries to work together each week, and develop an awareness of our similarities and differences in term of health issues/care and priorities with reduced costs and no travel or carbon footprint.– Dr Ann Wylie, Lecturer in Medical Education and Deputy Director of King’s Undergraduate Medical Education in the Community

Dr Sindhura Lakshmi, Associate Professor in Pathology at Kasturba Medical College, reflected on how the partner institutions ‘looked beyond the physical barriers for sharing knowledge and experiences’ to develop the virtual elective. She said, ‘It is because of perseverance and hard work of students, invited speakers and our colleagues at King’s and MAHE that our efforts have come to fruition.’

It was really great to see students of both schools interacting with each other, working as a team and discussing global health issues. It was heartening to witness them come together, mull over issues and bring out fabulous presentations. This program showed us we can bring down the walls of travel and financial restrictions imposed by the pandemic. As we say in India, Earth is One Family (Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam).– Dr Sindhura Lakshmi, Associate Professor in Department of Pathology, Kasturba Medical College

The pilot elective involved 36 students from King’s and MAHE over two phases. Reflecting on the experience, King’s student Daniel Parkash said, ‘The ability and the privilege to recognise nuances between healthcare systems in different countries during this virtual elective has provided a fantastic opportunity to improve our own practice in understanding humanity.’

This elective has been an interesting mix of group work, presentations and lectures. It has allowed us to explore the differences and similarities between healthcare and medical education in India and the UK alongside getting to know students from the other side of the globe. Overall it has been a fantastic opportunity to acknowledge the effects of COVID and learn about medicine through the lens of another country.– Kajol Verma, King’s student

MAHE student, Sutanka Sujaini, commented, ‘To be able to take part in a cultural and educational exchange of ideas through a global health elective has been a one-of-a-kind experience’. Another MAHE student, Neha Reddy, reflected, ‘Healthcare is universal, so it was great to be a part of this collaborative session and learn more about the system in UK. It was really interesting to exchange college experiences and work as a team!’

Electives like these are steppingstones towards mutual understanding across borders, something that today’s globalized world demands. It was a great experience overall, and I learned a lot!– Vivek Nayak, Manipal Academy of Higher Education student

As the virtual elective provided greater opportunities for collaboration between students and mitigated some of challenges posed by usual elective experiences, such as travel restrictions, the team are exploring options for running the course in 2022.

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