Humanitarian situations draw upon many professions and skills associated with the provision of protection and assistance. Such examples are law, engineering, and most importantly, medicine. Doctors play a huge role in humanitarian contexts given their broad training and knowledge which allowing them to provide care amid high-pressure and often harsh environments.
But while emergency training and specialized knowledge are necessary for emergency physicians, the practice of humanitarianism begins with the intention of promoting welfare and social accountability to those in need. At St. Luke’s Medical Center College of Medicine (SLMCCM), social accountability is a critical component of the curriculum which every student of medicine should learn.
Ever since she was a student, Dr. Malaya P. Santos was concerned about ways and solutions to bring healthcare to the underserved. In the Philippines where 21% of the population live below the poverty line, access to healthcare remains a primary issue. A majority of health expenditure is also out-of-pocket, indicating the burden of healthcare to the poor and how this barrier influences their health-seeking behaviors. This also highlights the vulnerability of poor Filipinos in the context of disasters.
At St. Luke’s Medical Center College of Medicine (SLMCCM) where Dr. Santos serves as the Associate Dean for Student Affairs, their goal is not to produce medical professionals that simply commercialize or make money out of the profession, but graduates who are equipped to meet the current challenges in healthcare by adhering to the principles of relevance, equity, quality, and cost effectiveness in healthcare delivery.
This belief follows the memorandum issued by the Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) which mandated medical schools to integrate transformative and outcome-based education in the curriculum of the Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) program, including outcomes such as professionalism, nationalism and social accountability, alongside clinical competence.
Presently, SLMCCM offers community medicine programs their students can opt to participate in to raise awareness on social reforms through medical practice. However, the goal is to institutionalize these social principles in their curriculum.
This gave rise to an opportunity for SLMCCM to partner with the Center for Humanitarian Learning and Innovation (CHLI) in the development of ten e-Learning courses focused on Professionalism and Social Accountability. According to Dr. Santos:
“I believe that Professionalism and Social Accountability are embedded in the practice of medicine, but are not purposively taught beyond Community Medicine and extra-curricular activities. If we want to imbibe these values on our students, we cannot leave it to chance. This [partnership] is an opportunity to integrate these principles in the whole curriculum of our medical students starting from first year to fifth year.”
The ten modules that will be developed by CHLI will be hosted and delivered through SLMCCM’s existing learning management system. One intended outcome is that teachers will begin looking into the subject matter more closely, and collaborate with the school management to produce more e-Learning medical courses integrating professionalism and accountability.
For CHLI, this partnership is not only an opportunity to innovate the medical curriculum through distance education technology, but also encourage more medical students and doctors to serve as volunteer physicians in times of emergencies.
SLMCCM has also expressed its enthusiasm to include CHLI’s course, Philippine Volunteer Essentials (PVE), in its roster of e-Learning modules to complement the promotion of Professionalism and Social Accountability among its students. Its introduction into the first year medical curriculum is also beneficial given that many students are idealistic when they enter the school.
Finally, Dr. Santos also commended how the partnership with CHLI provided them a learner-centered teaching structure, specifically in the creation of learner profiles.
“Creating the learner’s profile gave us an opportunity to know our own population of learners. It was a great journey with our own faculty members and the CHLI. I feel that social accountability is inherent in the medical profession, and CHLI helped us transfer this concept from the hidden curriculum and to the minds of our students.”
The partnership between CHLI and SLMCCM presents a window of opportunities in the medical field especially in equipping professionals with the knowledge of how they can participate in the broad scheme of humanitarianism.
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