A model of global debate on health

(Edmonton) First-year medical students will try their hand at international policy making and debate during a mock United Nations session about tuberculosis, a global epidemic. The innovative learning tool—the brainchild of two medical students—has proved its worth in its first two years and is now a part of the curriculum.

“I thought it oriented my view on how to be a patient advocate, not just locally,” said Iyswarya Bhaskar, vice-president (external) of the Medical Students’ Association and second-year medical student, who participated in the debate last year.

Bhaskar and classmate Rabia Bana organized the event this year. The project sees first-year medical and dental students act as delegates for one of 68 countries during the third annual World Health Organization Model United Nations—Healthcare Debates. The goal is to develop resolutions for prevention, treatment and control of tuberculosis at an international level.

“They have to think about civil issues; is the money going into the right hands?” said Bhaskar. “There are so many things to consider beyond knowing just the statistics about tuberculosis for your region.”

The idea is to give students a better understanding of the management of tuberculosis at a global level and of the UN’s process of making decisions, designing resolutions and writing policy. It is also intended to give students an appreciation of socio-economic, political and cultural influences on health. The exercise also builds on soft skills necessary to be a good physician, such as public speaking, collaboration and advocacy.

“A lot of students did a lot of research so we got a big perspective on tuberculosis around the world,” said Gregory Sawisky, a first-year medical student. “It’s going to help us because we’ll have a greater respect and greater understanding of how global health issues affect people around the world and how countries co-operate or don’t co-operate to get things done.”

The model UN debate ran alongside a Global Health Fair put on by the faculty to showcase the work of students worldwide.