As in most walks of life, outcomes in global health and education are improved through collaboration. Individuals and organisations stand to benefit from the successes of others, so long as there are opportunities for them to come together and share their experiences.
In healthcare, there is a growing trend towards One Health One Medicine; one of the strongest examples of the benefits of international, cross-sector collaboration. The One Health initiative brings together human, animal and ecosystem health, resulting in a joined-up approach between complementary areas of science and medicine. All too often these activities are practiced in a vacuum, but by learning from each other and sharing resources, we have already seen progress cross between sectors. Vaccinating dogs against rabies to improve human health outcomes in vulnerable communities is one example; a programme recently undertaken by one of our graduates in Rwanda.
At the global level, initiatives of this kind are starting to gain traction – but many of the networks are being established from scratch, which is an understandably lengthy process. Those of us working in the Commonwealth already enjoy the benefits of longstanding relationships, so the path to closer collaboration has already been built. The Commonwealth is an ideal organisation to foster the coming together of research, knowledge and best practice - as a network of 53 member states with common goals and shared values. Events that provide the opportunity for Commonwealth representatives to come together and learn from each other are one of the most effective ways to strengthen these relationships and foster closer collaboration.
It is for this reason that I am delighted my institution, St George’s University, on the Caribbean island of Grenada, will be hosting the annual conference of the Council for Education in the Commonwealth (CEC) in 2019. We have seen first-hand the benefits of collaboration in education, having established schools of medicine, veterinary medicine, and arts and sciences on one campus – and look forward to sharing our experiences. The event will provide a platform for the coming together of minds from across the Commonwealth, for those who work in education and want to share their experiences and learn from one another.
The theme of the conference, which will be held in the summer, is “investing in student success”, and will consider how institutions around the world can work to continually develop students throughout the course of their education, resulting in more staying on and completing their studies. We chose this theme, in part, because it complements our emphasis on identifying students with non-academic characteristics who tend to become excellent doctors, including compassion and communication skills. We work to develop these students, instead of admitting only those with the highest academic scores on paper. By investing in each of them, SGU has produced over 18,000 graduates working all over the world.
Key to this success has been working with our partners in the Commonwealth. Our students can take advantage of studying for part of their MD degree in Grenada, the UK, Canada and Australia, and have the opportunity to take selective courses in several Commonwealth countries on the African continent. By working with partner institutions, we have been able to make significant progress in our ambition to produce medical graduates who go on to practice in some of the most underserved areas of the world. Approximately 20% of Botswana’s practicing physicians are graduates of SGU, as are around 15% in Trinidad and Tobago.
Fostering and maintaining good links within the Commonwealth is an imperative, and one of the key aims of the CEC. I look forward to welcoming delegates to Grenada in 2019, and providing a platform for the sharing of knowledge and experience for the betterment of education throughout the Commonwealth.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Royal Commonwealth Society.