Universiteit Leiden

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Half minor Global Health a great success!

The pandemic has challenged us to revisit the way we structure education and how to reach out to students remotely. It almost seems fitting that a course devoted to a topic so closely related to the context of the corona crisis, that of global health, would explore the possibilities of making the course accessible to international students virtually and, based on the opinions of our (international) students and staff, successfully at that.

The minor Global Health is a fulltime course of ten weeks coordinated by Dr. Lisette van Lieshout (Parasitology), Prof. Thomas van den Akker (Obstetrics) and Prof. Leo Visser (Infectious Diseases). It starts with a general, basic introduction to Global Health of four weeks where the students become acquainted with the health topics currently challenging low and middle income countries. During this introduction, module students will become familiar with the interrelationship between global health policy and clinical disease manifestation around the world. This is followed by a module of six weeks exploring specific global health topics in depth. The minor is made for third-year bachelor students of medicine, but is also open to master students or those who study biomedical sciences or clinical technology.

This year

Different to the years prior, during the first part of this year’s autumn semester, students from several partner institutions in the Arica region joined the course on global health virtually; a unique experience that proved to not only benefit them, but the Dutch students as well. Where the African students learned a lot on our take on global health topics and issues, they, in return, were able to share their clinical experience with Dutch students, having seen discussed topics, such as tropical diseases, not just theoretically, but in practice too. This created new insight for all students and their engagement with global health subjects.

It’s the blend of different backgrounds that really stimulated a deeper understanding of the subject for all involved, despite the interaction being digital. Interestingly enough, this interaction wasn’t just limited to the course subjects. As Dr. Meta Roestenberg puts it: “The bare necessity of digital education in a time of crisis has been taken to benefit the students and teachers to make it an enjoyable and unforgettable experience. Coordinator Dr. van Lieshout managed to build a community of students who were happy to log in from their homes across the globe well in advance of the start of the online teaching to chat informally about other topics in addition to the course subject, such as their taste of music. Their active participation in the online teaching provided a deeper understanding of global health through sharing ideas, experiences and culture, fostering a generation of students with the ability to work with and live in a global community.”

As most African participants have stated, the global health minor has really changed their perspective on global health issues that occur in their own country too. And their active participation inspired Dutch students to learn more about certain global health issues in practice. As one of the students put it: “The influence of African nationalities was very useful. I loved the fact that presenters from all over the world were able to tune in and give us some of their time. The coordinators have so much experience themselves, which is really valuable. They were also all very approachable and were really easy to contact! Also, the student assistant was really helpful and kind. Overall, I think that the minor is put together very well and that the level is exactly right. I loved that the first four weeks were so clarifying and that we could use this very well during the second half of the minor.”

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