Around the world and back for the 5th annual Medicine and the Humanities International Summer School

Posted on Thursday, August 19, 2021

What does it mean to be a physician in the 21st century?  Does the answer lie in an epidemiology textbook exclusively, or rather, should we also look to the humanities and social sciences for a new concept of health care in a post-COVID world?

These are the fundamental questions 34 learners from three continents explored this July as part of the 5th Annual Medicine and the Humanities International Summer School held virtually for the second year in a row. This collaborative, multi-lingual and multicultural program brings together students from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottawa, the Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Université de Lyon.

Extract from a student presentation delivered at the end of the 5th Medicine and the Humanities Virtual Summer School

Extract of a learner's presentation delivered at the end of the 5th Annual Medicine and the Humanities International Summer School. 

We can safely say the world has changed since 2017 when the uOttawa Faculty of Medicine hosted the first edition of this international summer school during which undergraduate medical learners from three continents met in-person to explore themes such as the history of medicine, art, literature, philosophy, and medical ethics.

When last year’s edition of the summer school faced a restriction of all international travels normally associated with this program’s curriculum, the undeterred hosts at the Université de Lyon delivered the first-ever virtual edition of the Medicine and the Humanities Summer School.  

Université de Lyon covered timely and poignant topics of modern medicine such as artificial intelligence and health relations during pandemics. To view the highlights from this edition of the summer school, check out the video for the Medicine and Humanities Summer School 2020 on YouTube.  

This July, the University of Ottawa’s the Department of Innovation in Medical Education (DIME) and the International and Global Health Office (IGHO) returned as hosts of this international event with the theme Healthcare in a Post-COVID World.

While several logistical challenges were to be expected when setting up a two-week online program across three continents (notably due to the 12-hour time difference between Ottawa and Shanghai), program coordinators were able to take advantage of the flexibility of an online environment.

Using modern conferencing technology, uOttawa coordinated an intercontinental list of prestigious guest speakers to present on such topics as the history of post-pandemic societies, vaccine hesitancy, mental health after COVID-19, Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment influence over COVID-19 and the politics of patient triage during a pandemic.
Following these fascinating presentations, summer school participants were asked to apply their critical-thinking skills in an online environment that allowed for live exchanges, independent group work and structured self-reflection.  

As one participant shared: “Listening to the real-life experiences and perceptions from students coming from different parts of the world; it opened my mind to new ways of thinking and approaching situations.”

"Even as a physician actively engaged in the medical humanities, I am always struck by the depth and breadth of the interests and knowledge these students bring to this program,” said Dr. Francis Bakewell, an emergency physician at The Ottawa Hospital, who served as Director of the Medicine, Ethics and the Humanities Program up until July 31, 2021.

“Their holistic and nuanced understanding of what it means to be a physician gives me so much hope for our profession going forward."

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