Forty-nine (49) medical students from CMED began their clinical placements this Fall, complementing their learning within a clinical setting in 6 primary health care centers. The placements for students from the second to the fourth year of the medical program will mostly take place in Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) centers, while clinical training as of the fourth year will involve secondary and tertiary care and will take place mostly at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) hospitals. This Fall, the participating primary health centers include West Bay Primary Healthcare Center, Omar Bin Khattab Health Center, Al Daayen Health Center, Leabaib Health Center, Umm Ghwailina Health Center and Al Gharrafa Health Center.
According to CMED Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Prof Hossam Hamdy, such early exposure to the clinical environment is not common. Medical students normally have their first clinical contact in year 3. Before then, most of their learning is based on theoretical knowledge. However, evidence shows, Prof Hamdy clarifies, that early exposure to the clinical setting provides students not only with increased confidence and familiarity in communicating effectively with patients, but also with more solid knowledge attainment skills that are rooted in experiential learning and based on a patient-centered approach.
“Learning from patients is highly valued by medical students”, commented Prof Alison Carr, CMED Head of Clinical Education and Professor, leading the clinical placement initiative. “From the beginning, students attend and become familiar with primary health centers, observing from family physicians and their health care teams how care is provided to patients. Students learn effectively from “patient stories”, where patients are able to bring clinical learning to students by telling them about their medical problems and their personal experiences in health care. These opportunities help the students make sense of the knowledge they have acquired from studying at the university, allowing them to combine theoretical and experiential learning and to develop their knowledge in a more contextualized way.” For example, Prof Carr clarified, the program initially aims to show students how patient care is delivered within the Qatari health care system. She said: “This population health perspective familiarizes students with how primary care centers provide care for patients, and helps them develop a deeper understanding of the structure of the health care system from primary to secondary and tertiary care.” She added: “Such an early exposure also familiarizes students with the important roles of the various members within the medical team such as nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, and other allied health professionals. The program also enables a closer understanding of the specificities of health care policy and the particulars of patient care in Qatar bringing their theoretical experience to real life cases in a controlled environment where they are supervised by practicing clinicians. Once students have learnt history taking, examination skills and medical practical procedures, they will also be able to gain experience from real patients to prepare them to be excellent doctors.”
Head of Clinical Training & Consultant Family Medicine at PHCC Dr Noora Al Mutawa said: “By providing support to second-year medical students at Qatar University through clinical placements, PHCC contributes to building their insight and knowledge about population health in Qatar. Through the guided professional expertise of family physicians in primary care clinical placements, students will be exposed to the ideal practical environment where they can integrate academic knowledge and theory into practice. This will enhance the problem-based learning approach of year 2 curriculum. Furthermore, family physicians will help to facilitate the experiential learning sessions. During these sessions, the students will reflect on their experiences in the clinical placements and discuss the health care profession, ethical dilemmas, determine gaps in their knowledge and finally develop an action plan for learning and improvement guided by their faculty. We, at Primary Health Care Corporation, are excited to work with medical students from CMED and develop them to be our future colleagues.”
Early clinical placements are in line with CMED’s teaching philosophy which adopts a patient-centered-educational method promoting patients as the focus of the educational process. This means maintaining an awareness and sensitivity to the impact of a patient’s life, gender, age, culture, religion, socioeconomic background, health care beliefs and other personal specificities and how they may have an impact on their health or illness. Patient-centered care also advocates shared decision-making principles into the physician’s practice and emphasizes the importance of non-biological determinants of health or illness including the economic, psychological, social, and cultural factors that contribute to it.
Early clinical placements are also linked to the College’s adoption of problem-based learning (PBL) -- a case-based teaching method. PBL incorporates the following six characteristics: use of medical cases as the starting point for learning, small-group collaboration, flexible guidance of a tutor, student-initiated learning -- a focus on self-guided-learning, and limited number of lecture-style sessions.
Although most medical schools today utilize some form of case-based teaching, CMED’s use of PBL methodologies is somewhat unique in terms of the degree of emphasis placed on small-group teaching, faculty-facilitated sessions, and student-directed learning that is focused around the careful study of each case using a holistic approach that considers the patients, their families, and their communities. The students’ dialogue in the PBL cases ensures patient-centeredness while the students are learning about relevant organ systems, biological sciences, clinical sciences, patient communication, and professionalism which are contextualized in Qatar-specific PBL cases.