Preparing the next generation of leaders

A message from the Acting Executive Dean

At UQ we are uniquely positioned to educate and train the next generation of health leaders. The Faculty of Medicine links pre-clinical and clinical sciences with population and global health.

Having this educational pipeline lets us make significant contributions to Australia’s healthcare system.

As educators, an ongoing challenge is to ensure that the learning environment we provide our students will support their transition to a workplace where change is the only constant.

I can remember the first day of my MBBS degree at the University of New South Wales in the early ’80s as if it were yesterday. Every seat in the lecture theatre was taken.

There were no laptops on the desks, no PowerPoint, and I certainly couldn’t listen to the pre-recorded lecture on my phone on the way to uni.

It was a vastly different educational landscape, and it’s an environment that will continue to see dramatic change. We are at a point where our methods of learning are in many ways foreign to that of our students. This difference can cause friction.

Imagine you’re a busy hospital doctor rushing to UQ to give a lecture. You’ve crammed in the afternoon of patients and arrived at the lecture theatre expecting a reception somewhat akin to an Adele concert. But only 10 students sit in the back three rows of a 500-person lecture theatre. Perhaps a few more online.

You rush through the lecture content, and leave irritated, muttering about the work ethic of students:“Didn't happen in my day – this explains why junior doctors don’t know any anatomy or [insert favourite discipline]”.

For some of us, this isn’t too far from the truth, and the result – a potential strain to well-established (and future) partnerships.

Now imagine an alternative model. Limited seating for a live lecture, say 50 seats in a room, which students reserve in advance. Everyone else is watching online or saving on their phone for later viewing.

The concept would have seemed inconceivable 10 years ago, but is one of the many alternatives being floated in 2017.

The tried and trusted models are being flipped, and as educators we need to consider these new opportunities with an open mind.

Another modern model is the idea of students as partners – meaning we harness student and staff creativity via collaborative partnerships with a view to enhanced teaching and learning – a two-way knowledge and skills transfer where both parties are learning.

The relationship between RHD students and supervisors is a worthy demonstration of this idea exchange – a bright, young and enquiring mind, paired with a seasoned supervisor whose love of science is fuelled by students.

But this is a one-to-one relationship. We need to be able to scale it. How can we recreate this across an entire cohort?

The concept of ‘reverse innovation’ comes from business literature. The basic premise is that a company needs to overcome its dominant logic, the institutionalised thinking that has always guided its actions.

In the ever-changing world of medicine and research, it’s a concept we can’t afford to ignore.

The challenge will be implementing a model where there is a two-way exchange of ideas between students and teachers.

Maintaining and improving our position as a leader in health and medical education hinges on our ability to innovate and adapt to the changing environment.

While we don’t know what the future of education will look like, we do know the landscape is changing – and UQ is committed to being part of that changed future.

The change is in the interests of our students, teachers and ultimately our community.

Professor Robyn Ward AM
Executive Dean