The University of Birmingham was proud to be the host for the United Nations Millennium Development Goals conference. Health Science Students from around the European sector of the Universitas 21 network gathered in the City Centre on Friday night prior to the work that was going to take place the next day. The Universities represented included Birmingham, Lund, University College Dublin and Nottingham. There were well over 50 students from different Health backgrounds.
The organisers of the conference were from dentistry and were ably led by the charismatic Shiraz Khan (final year) assisted by the no less charismatic students, Raj (1st year), Aliya (2nd Year), Cristina, Hadil and Maryam (3rd year). Their organisational skills were certainly put to the test as they moved students from the city centre hotels to the CPD centre at the College Medical and Dental Sciences.
Upon arrival Professor Prem Kumar, Director of Education, College of Medical and Dental Sciences welcomed the delegates. Derek Chambers introduced the UNMDG and the Universitas 21 network to the students. Sharon Buckley explained the interdisciplinary component and why we had student Medics, Dentists, Physiotherapists, Nurses, Dieticians, occupational therapists and other health workers sitting together in the same room. She challenged the assembled group of students to discuss with the person next to them what 3 things they had in common and 3 things that were different. Professor Arri Coomarasamy gave a presentation on Global Maternal Health and highlighted the difficulties for Women in Africa when they are ready for delivering their child. He highlighted a distressing and harrowing story of one woman’s journey that led to the loss of her life.
Following coffee, Derek Chambers provided guidance on the objectives of the UNMDG Case studies and the students were split into 5 groups with two facilitators. Each were then provided with a case study. There were two case studies which focused on issues around the UNMDG.
One was a story about a young boy who scavenged with his family on the rubbish tips outside Manila in the Philippines. On his way to church on the handlebars of his brother’s bike, there was a collision with a speeding bike. The result is that he suffered multiple injuries including a fractured jaw. The accident led to the family having to appeal to their community to help fund immediate emergency care but the long term care was uncertain.
The second case study highlighted a young girl called Lily living in rural China who went to the big city looking for work. She found waitress work but quickly turned to prostitution which was initially very lucrative. Her family were pleased with the gifts she brought home. However within a year she found herself very ill, listless and subsequently developed a sore throat, diarrhoea and high fevers. Her doctor diagnosed her with HIV and the difficulties that were associated with such a disease were highlighted.
The students debated the issues, researching not only the clinical problems but the cultural and social difficulties that such cases threw up. Each group analysed, debated and researched their individual case study. They were provided with time to prepare presentations to feed back to the larger group. Some acted out the case study with suggested methods of improving the situation. Others looked to instigate a debate on the subject with the audience.
The standard of presentations was incredibly high but there was one winner. The winning group used the young boy suffering an accident and wove it into a news story with a reporter interviewing people who were involved with the chain of events. Whilst this may have been the winner, all the students performed really well.
The long day concluded with a well earned Barbecue at Business School, Edgbaston, Birmingham. The sun was shinning and everyone reflected on a successful day which had not only been fun but challenged their own conceptions of how to work within interprofessional teams. Shiraz and his volunteers handed out certificates to all the participants and thanked everyone for their involvement with the UNMDG project.
Pictures of the day and more information are provided together with details of Universitas 21 and the U21 Health Sciences.