‘Medical education with a global perspective’

A first-time view of the Association for the Study of Medical Education Conference

Photo of Dr Juliet Brown


by Dr Juliet Brown
Teaching Fellow in Primary Care
Centre for Academic Primary Care


Conferences are a microcosm of collaboration, critique and niche scholarship, which can sometimes seem a world away from ‘real life’.  Yet I always come away from them feeling enthused, energised, and with a new sense of purpose.

This year I attended the Association for the Study of Medical Education (ASME) annual conference for the first time, and I’m happy to say, it lived up to expectations.

I was one of a team of five, along with others from the wider Bristol Medical School (and Academies). With so many sessions to choose from, we deployed ourselves at different plenary, parallel and poster sessions. The theme was ‘Medical Education with a Global Perspective’.

It was great to hear and learn from international colleagues, including Professor Philip Cotton of Glasgow, now Vice Chancellor of the University of Rwanda, and Professor Susan van Schalkwyk, Director of the Centre for Health Professions Education (CHPE) at Stellenbosch University.

What struck me most from these talks was the importance of community – and community medicine. In faculty terms, more gets done, and done well, if community is involved. For students, more time in the community gets them closer to the experiences of their patients and enhances their exposure to collaborative care.

This was a fantastic endorsement of our approach at Bristol Medical School, where we work closely with our GP tutor colleagues. We have a new (MB21) curriculum, which is increasing the delivery of student learning in primary care.

I was keen to come away from the conference with ideas we could put into practice and I am delighted to say I have. Two talks stood out: Dr Clare Morris on using peer observation of GP Tutors in undergraduate medical education; and Dr Bill Laughey on ‘Empathy, fake empathy, and the use of the empathic statement’.

In the former, Clare talked about the importance of involving GP colleagues in the purpose, scope and process of peer observation, rather than imposing a faculty-designed Quality Assurance scheme. This is something we are keen to explore in Bristol.

Bill’s research used simulated patients (which we use for communication skills training) to identify the demonstration of empathy by students. Empathy is known to be beneficial to clinicians and students, as well as to patients, but fake empathy is easy to spot. The clear message was ‘listen attentively’ and say what you feel, when you feel it, but don’t fake it. Not ground-breaking, perhaps, but useful to remind ourselves, and our students. In essence ‘be human’. Aren’t human interactions what make us different from artificial intelligence, and what bring satisfaction to our consultations in general practice?

Finally, we heard from Professor Deborah Helitzer, Dean of the College of Health Solutions at Arizona State University. She began with a powerful story of a young, single mother in the US who, paying for her child’s needs, couldn’t afford to cash a prescription for antibiotics for her own chest infection. She deteriorated, needing admission, which sent her into debt of many thousands of dollars. Thank goodness for UK primary care and the NHS at 70. Still (mostly) free at the point of access for those who need it.

Thanks, ASME, you were great!

See the CAPC teaching team’s ASME 2018 posters

Effective consultation teaching within a new curriculum

COGCONNECT: The development of a new consultation model

The devil in the detail: Establishing medical student indemnity in modern multi-professional community learning environments in the UK

Google to the rescue! Harnessing the power of Google maps to profile, clarify and recruit to GP placements in a UK undergraduate medical programme

Inside the black box: Interactive practice in clinical reasoning for 2nd year students

Related posts

Why GPs should teach

Why do some medical schools produce more General Practitioners than others?

Creating a data archive of GP consultations – the motivations and challenges



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