An injection of humanity

Patients are supposed to be the centre of attention for students preparing to work in one of the health professions. But somehow, in the rush to learn all there is to know about treating, curing and healing, students rarely get a chance to know patients in any meaningful way — the choices they have to make, the barriers they confront, the frustrations they encounter. Now, thanks to the Interprofessional Health Mentors Program, the learning process will get an injection of humanity. It has matched small groups of students with a mentor grappling with some kind of chronic condition — some have a spinal cord injury, others have multiple sclerosis, still others have arthritis, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS or mental health problems. Their meetings take place during a 16-month period—a virtual epoch in the frenzied, “if it’s Tuesday it must be anatomy” whirlwind of becoming nurses, occupational therapists, dentists, physicians and pharmacists. UBC borrowed the idea from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and Dalhousie University, but reworked it to give students and mentors more control. “We obviously set some objectives, but we didn’t want to constrain the learning,” Towle says. “We wanted to see what would happen.” To find out what is happening, read about it in the March issue of UBC Reports.

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