First year Medical students at UKZN participated in an HIV and Me programme which covers a range of topics and skills designed to equip them with personal and professional know-how in the field.
The programme, part of the Becoming a Professional module and convened by the Discipline of Public Health Medicine, introduces a focus on building self-awareness , discovery and creativity, thus initiating a longitudinal learning pathway in educating future practitioners who are socially accountable, creative and adaptive in response to complex challenges.
Students work in groups to build their social interaction skills, get to know fellow students and discover individual strengths and creative potential. These skills are harnessed in the creation of “health images” and students crystallise and express their values and hopes for being agents of change within the health system thereby impacting on the health of the nation.
During the most recent programme, each student shared their vision, becoming engaged and energised by new ideas and creativity within the class.
One of the students created a “running man” taking active strides towards an efficient health system and healthy people within the country. The work is currently on exhibition in the Medical School library where the creativity of the students is celebrated.
The programme covers HIV myths and realities, attitudes and perceptions including stigma, HIV prevention and living positively with HIV. During the programme a range of speakers shared real stories with the students and answered questions.
Students applied their knowledge and skills gained in a community service learning opportunity titled “Making a Difference” that takes place as part of the Becoming a Professional module in the first year Medical curriculum.
The Making a Difference community activity involves groups of four students who identify and work together with a community organisation serving a disadvantaged community and find the most appropriate ways to participate in its activities. An important objective of the community service learning activity is to build the health knowledge and skills of their chosen community, including sharing information about HIV and AIDS as well as working together with participants to find new solutions to challenges.
Part of the learning for the students is a focus on the process of community entry, self- presentation and communication skills in order to build good relationships with the organisation and the participants it serves.
Students held discussions about health and learned about the range of different views as a baseline to the development of their plans for their group community service activity.
During this experience, students grappled with learning about determinants of health, leadership and teamwork and also identified their own personal qualities and contributions to the core professional attributes.
A process of structured reflective practice guides students to consider their learning during this experience and the results are presented in summative poster presentations. Students take up the challenge of becoming agents of change in partnership with these communities and in Making a Difference.