Medical education in difficult circumstances

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Gibbs, T., McLean, M., Pawlowicz, E., McKimm, J. (2017). Medical education in difficult circumstances. MedEdPublish.

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© The Authors, 2017




“Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”

Malala Yousafzai (United Nations General Assembly, 2013)

These are the words of a brave 15-year-old girl who had recovered after being shot in the head the year before for courageously taking a stand against an oppressive regime that opposed education for women. Against the odds, she fought for a cause in which she believed. For Malala, education provides each of us (as well as collectively) with the power to change the status quo. Medical and health professional education has the power to change lives, but for many, challenges and difficulties need to be overcome.

We live in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world, a world that is plagued by war, conflict, political upheaval, emerging epidemics and natural disasters (Lemoine et al., 2017). Events of the last few years, particularly in the Middle Eastern region, has led to millions of refugees, including some health care practitioners and students, who have left their country of birth in search of a safer place to hopefully study or work. Amidst the challenges of this complex world, medical education, like life, must continue but many students and doctors have to study and work in the most difficult of circumstances, perhaps even under duress. The description above reflects some of the most extreme difficult circumstances, lying at the furthest end of a spectrum, which ranges from terrible and tragic situations to more mundane or entrenched, but important issues, such as lack of teaching resources, institutional sexism or racism, rigidity in curriculum development and financial constraints