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Training introduced in UofG Medical School to tackle discrimination

By Lucy Dunn

The Active Bystander Training is a new part of the curriculum developed by staff with student input.

Medical students are to receive practical Active Bystander Training in March as a new part of their curriculum focuses on tackling racism and discrimination. 

University of Glasgow medical students have had compulsory Active Bystander Training added to their curriculum as of this week. Students across all five year groups will undertake a self-directed module, with fourth-year students in hospital placement also completing a practical component. Dr Elaine Taylor and Professor Lindsey Pope are responsible for the running of the programme at Glasgow.

The self-directed module, designed by experts at the University of Coventry with shared access by all higher education students in the UK, aims to educate students on when and how to intervene when unacceptable behaviour occurs. The related University of Glasgow document also states that the module will help students to “consider why some people do not intervene”, as well as “discussing the limitations of bystanders”, and referring students to the University’s official Raising Concerns policy

The practical session is aimed at fourth-year students, with the recognition that “hate incidents and harassment” occur in “a variety of clinical and campus contexts”: it is at this stage that students spend the majority of their time in hospital placement, and so may experience additional issues when encountering patients from the community. 

The Active Bystander Training was created by the medical school in conjunction with feedback from students that had commenced a year ago, following the introduction of the British Medical Association’s Racial Harassment Charter. 

The Glasgow Guardian spoke to Lewis O’Connor, currently studying a Life Sciences intercalated degree, who stated that when students had initially gone to discuss the introduction of some kind of bystander training with the Medical School, they were informed that this training was already in the works. He said that Professor Pope was especially receptive to discussing changes to the Vocational Studies and Communication Skills sections of the curriculum and that the aim was to normalise different cultural aspects that students would likely later come across in clinical practice. 

Lewis described how they were keen to “normalise non-stereotypes” by focusing on cultural aspects, and in doing so, “draw attention to unconscious biases”. He said that he, along with several other medical students, was in conversation with Dr Taylor and Professor Pope about the interweaving of a “multifaceted approach” to the current medical school curriculum. Dr Taylor has been instrumental in the organisation of the practical Active Bystander Training component for senior students due to take place in early March. Professor Pope has been commended about her enthusiasm at increasing the diversity content of Vocational Studies sessions, which are typically three hours long and aim to cover non-scientific, theory-based aspects of medicine, including ethical dilemmas and legal concepts. Moving forward, there is hope that these sessions will better cover the vast array of nuances that are bound to appear in clinical practice, including both “language and cultural barriers”. 

Speaking about the prevalence of racial incidents that happen both on campus and in hospital placements, Lewis emphasised the importance of helping people to better understand the significance of these events. Outlining how to go about reporting these incidences will ensure that when students do experience discrimination, their White colleagues will be better placed to help support them, instead of ignoring an issue that they themselves do not fully understand. 

The Healthcare Students Against Racism Society, founded last year, has been involved in feeding back and providing direction for the medical school’s curriculum changes. Letters composed over the latter part of 2020 by a large working group, constituting healthcare students from medical, dental and nursing backgrounds, were sent to the respective University schools, drawing attention to the various ways in which discrimination had been faced and offering suggestions to the medical faculty. 

The medical school has set a precedent for the rest of the University, and the students interviewed by The Glasgow Guardian agreed that to see other colleges following suit would be another positive step towards progress.For more information on the work done by segments of the student body to tackle discrimination, Healthcare Students Against Racism can be found on The University of Glasgow Healthcare Students Against Racism page on Facebook.


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