Plans in motion for OUM’s “next level”

Professor Bartholomeusz is very enthusiastic about the future of OUM.

Vice Chancellor, Professor Hugh Bartholomeusz, OAM, RFD, MBBS, FRACS, has set in motion several changes that he says will propel OUM to the next level. Professor Bartholomeusz, who has assembled a new executive team, envisions a streamlined leadership structure and a culture centred on delivering clinicians of the highest quality to join the worldwide medical workforce and be proud ambassadors for OUM.

“It is not a new paradigm, but an upgrade of the excellent curricular scaffold that currently exists.” Professor Bartholomeusz said at a recent student session where he introduced his new executive team and discussed his plans.

Based in Brisbane, Professor Bartholomeusz wants to foster unity among all the OUM regions and work towards having everyone “singing from the same song sheet.” When acknowledging the numerous changes introduced as of late, he reiterated that ultimately the students stand to gain from these changes.

“We have really enthusiastic Directors and Regional Deans who want to do the best they can for you. We all want you to be the best medical practitioners you can possibly be,” he told students. One example of the student-centred approach is the appointment of Dr. Nicolette McGuire as Director of Student Affairs and the newly created role of Ombudsman. She will play a pivotal role in the interface among leadership, faculty, and students.

Two changes championed by Professor Bartholomeusz, who served as Dean for Australia since joining the University in July 2020, focus on enhancing students’ clinical skills and reflect his experience as a successful surgeon.

Perfecting clinical skills

“I am a firm believer that the best way to integrate didactic knowledge with clinical application is to see it firsthand,” says Professor Bartholomeusz. He has phased out the Clinical Student Advisors and is requiring students to select a Clinical Mentor from their community prior to beginning the System-Based Modules. Students will meet with their Clinical Mentors weekly during the SBMs and fortnightly during the clinical phase, as these mentors will continue with the students until graduation. Being co-located with the student is the key, he says.

“Being alongside a Clinical Mentor, students will observe the physical examination and absorb the history associated with the systems they are learning, while seeing patients with the relevant symptoms. This is how you integrate your textbook knowledge into the clinical area.”

A new eight-week Clinical Skills Course that begins with a five-day face-to-face practical course will help students bridge the pre-clinical and clinical phases of the MD curriculum. The stand-alone targeted Clinical Skills Course replaces the current Day-One Clinical Skills Course and will be required for all students except those who are currently enrolled in their sixth SBM or beyond. Professor Bartholomeusz says the intensity of the new Clinical Skills Course is a more efficient way to learn hands-on patient care and will give students a solid foundation from which to begin clinical rotations.

“The expectation is that after students have completed the System-Based Modules, they will benefit from an immersive course that requires them to draw from all the knowledge they acquired during the pre-clinical phase, to determine the pathophysiology of a case and create a differential diagnosis and a management plan,” he says. “These skills are pivotal to the practice of medicine, and they deserve a student’s undivided attention. That is our goal with this stand-alone approach.”

Emphasis on self-direction

A retired Air Vice-Marshal and former Surgeon General, Australian Defence Force Reserves, Professor Bartholomeusz also imparted advice on organization and self-discipline, important skills for OUM’s self-directed learning environment.

“It’s very important to have a sense of personal organisation, attention to detail and self -discipline. The academic advisors and the clinical mentors are here to help you and to answer your queries but not to think for you,” he said, adding that he wishes to have less of what he calls the “hand-holding culture” that has evolved at OUM over time.

“We want you to make decisions for yourself. We are not here to be punitive, but we are here to educate you. You must help us by educating yourself from the knowledge we provide for you. OUM already is a recognised leader in hybrid medical education. My vision is to produce exceptional, critical-thinking clinicians, completely focused on serving their own communities with passion, dedication and understanding.”

(Read more here on Professor Bartholomeusz’ elevation to Vice Chancellor.)

(October 2021)