Gauging global health with new summer course

Aug. 16, 2012, 2:28 a.m.

From July 30 to Aug. 10, the inaugural Global Health Intensive Summer Course for medical residents and fellows at Stanford Hospital was held in the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge. The course featured a class titled “Global Health: Beyond Diseases and International Organizations,” which aimed to broaden its students’ horizons and address the overarching themes of global health.

“It’s not a medical or disease-based course,” said Saraswati Kache, clinical associate professor of pediatrics and co-director of the course. “Focusing on health issues alone isn’t enough…. They have to understand context and its impact on health care.”

According to Kache, the course’s student body is made up of residents and fellows from various training backgrounds, including pediatrics, medicine, surgery and anesthesia.

Kache’s partner, co-director Cybele Renault, a clinical associate professor in internal medicine, says that many of the lectures were taught by individuals with innovative ideas but perhaps no medical experience.

“[Saraswati] and I would leave lectures by people who have nothing at all to do with medicine and feel so inspired,” she said. “Part of the fun of doing this was drawing on all the resources in the University and integrating that into the course structure.”

In addition to its diverse array of lecturers, the course was unique in that it provided an interactive model for post-graduate medical education.

“Everything is as interactive as it can be,” Renault said. “This is not a passive learning environment; every lecture has been case-based. They try to get students to imagine that they’re in a certain scenario and ask them, ‘How would you treat this?’”

Several students, including Dr. Meghana Gadgil, a second-year medical resident in internal medicine, cited the interactive panels of physicians as their favorite aspect of the course.

“I was thrilled to have some of the panels,” Gadgil said. “They were a unique opportunity to see people talk very candidly about how they got into what they’re doing, because there’s no clear path in this field for anyone.”

By incorporating the panels, Kache hoped to touch upon topics ranging from economic aspects of global health to water sanitation and maintaining cultural competency in the field. Each of these topics was incorporated into the two-week curriculum.

In the final project, four to five students per group were assigned to a real-world health crisis. From there, the groups critically analyzed their problems, drawing on the lectures they had heard in the past two weeks, and brainstormed solutions.

Kache and Renault have been evaluating the hope to host the course again next year, already nursing a few ideas about how they want it to develop.

“I feel like, because of the increasing passion for global health, the difficulty of the course is going to increase with time,” Renault said. “We didn’t realize before the breadth of experience our students would have, and it’s remarkable.”

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