November 2012

U21 Workshop on UN Millennium Development Goals at Lund University

Tue, 6 November 12 09:00

In summer 2012, five medicine students were selected by their peers to represent the School at the Universitas 21 Workshop on the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) at Lund University, Sweden. Upon their return, the five students were asked to pen and submit a reflective piece that captured their experiences.

By: Maeve Hennessy, Sarah Kelliher, Gavin Kane, David Tansey and Andrew Crow

It was a privilege for the five of us to represent UCD medicine at the Universitas 21 Workshop on the UN Millennium Development Goals at Lund University, Sweden. The aim of the workshop was to educate health science students about the MDGs and to stimulate multi-disciplinary problem solving. It was interesting to learn more about the 8 goals set by the UN back in 2000 and to examine the progress being made on the targets set for 2015.

We gathered early on June 8th in the Health Science building of Lund University and were provided with folders and a timetable for the day. The workshop began with presentations by various heads of office from the represented universities (Lund, Nottingham, Birmingham) on the subjects of Global Health, the U21 Network and the MDGs. Following this, we were divided into groups comprising of students not only from different universities but also from different health science disciplines such as Nursing and Pharmacy. Each group was given a case study related to health issues and the MDGs. It was great to meet like-minded health science students who were also concerned about and interested in global development.

We employed a ‘Problem Based Learning’ approach when working through the case studies, establishing the facts presented to us, discussing relevant questions that arose, analysing the scenario and brainstorming solutions. We focused mainly on the goals relating specifically to health, Goal 4 – to reduce Child Mortality, Goal 5 – to Improve Maternal Health and Goal 6 – to combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases.

We found, however, that the problems raised in the case studies often concerned a number of goals and only by improving and working towards achieving all of these, could the issue be fully addressed and resolved. For example one case study related to a young girl who had contracted HIV from her involvement in the sex industry in China. The diagnosis and treatment of the disease were the obvious medical issues in this case with Goal 6 being the most crucial. However we also researched and discussed the many other factors that were relevant to the case such as poverty, education and gender equality and how the implementation of their respective MDGs would be of benefit.

What was fascinating was witnessing how each team member approached the case from a different perspective. Everyone brought their own area of interest and body of knowledge to the discussion. This was very beneficial as it allowed us to address the many aspects involved in each case study and to reach holistic conclusions. The clear benefit of the Multi Disciplinary Team Approach was exemplified when working on a case study involving a young girl of aboriginal origin who was suffering with mental health issues. The Psych Nursing student in the group explained the various non-pharmacological interventions that could be used in the management of this girl such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Art and Music Therapy which, he explained, is especially useful for younger patients.

The social worker-to-be in the group demonstrated that the mental health problems may be stemming from the girl’s dysfunctional upbringing, as she drew attention to the fact that her father left when she was younger, her mother was an alcoholic and the girl may have been burdened with caring for her younger siblings. This was a point most of us had missed. As the medical students, we discussed the appropriate medications that could be prescribed while the pharmacy student in the group advised on how compliance with medications could be achieved. It was enriching to see how the different health sectors often overlapped and it was a valuable insight into the need for interdisciplinary partnership and cooperation in our future careers.

The third case study concerned anaemia and dietary problems in a Tibetan village situated in the Himalayan Mountains. The case was interesting and at the same time quite upsetting. It appeared that the local people were stuck in a cycle of poor dietary intake and resultant disease. At first the issues seemed overwhelming; however some hope began to emerge once we started discussing possible solutions. We discovered that many of the ideas we had put forward had in fact, been implemented in the region. Again, it was agreed amongst the group that one of the most pertinent factors in addressing the problems faced by the community would involve co-operation between different members of society; parents, children, teachers, healthcare workers, farmers and so on.

UCD Students at U21 Workshop, Lund University 

The day ended with each group giving a short presentation on their particular case study. The passion and dedication of the students was evident as they were presenting and there was a feeling of optimism among everyone in the room. It was informative and valuable to hear the thoughts and opinions of the other groups and this emphasis on collaboration and sharing of ideas is perhaps one of the things we enjoyed most about the workshop. Aside from the workshop itself, there was a great rapport among the representatives from the UCD schools of Medicine and Nursing. It was a terrific opportunity to get to know our fellow students and future colleagues.

We feel the workshop really fulfilled its objective and succeeded in creating a greater awareness among health science students about the MDGs. As health is at the root of many of our most pressing problems it’s imperative that we, as future health care professionals, are informed and equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills so that we can work towards improving society, meeting the MDGs and adopting their principles in our practices. Through the case studies we were encouraged to think about the potentially far-reaching impact of medicine and to envision how our own endeavours work towards the benefit of all global citizens.

On reflection we identified certain aspects of the workshop that could have been improved to further enhance the experience for us as students. As everyone present had a keen interest in Global Health and Healthcare in the Developing World, and having been educated on the MDGs and their role, it may be an idea to give a short presentation on how we can get involved with healthcare work in developing countries once we have graduated (for example, a presentation from Medecins Sans Frontieres or a similar humanitarian group on how to best approach becoming involved in healthcare work with them). On the day of the workshop, we felt that there was more room for the students to learn from the speakers and lecturers who were present. It was excellent to be given a level of autonomy in the case analysis but we thought there was more potential to learn, in detail, about how the UN has gone about trying to achieve the UNMDGs. In this regard, perhaps a representative from the UN could have been invited to speak at the workshop. However, perhaps this would not have been feasible.

This being said, the day provided great opportunities to learn about global development, the UNMDGs and also to make contact with other students and lecturers who will hopefully work together in the future in the attempt to reach these goals. This workshop deepened our understanding of universal issues, stressed the importance of teamwork in medicine and gave us a better idea of what we can do to give aid to countries that are so desperately in need.

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