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Sustainable Healthcare in Modules and Lectures

By: University of Dundee Medical School


Dundee included sustainability as an option for their Student Selected Component (SSC) modules throughout the medical school year-groups and included some lectures on sustainability in their core lectures.

Course and lecture details:

First-year students received two lectures that were specifically focussed on sustainability. The first was an introductory lecture on “How to live forever” aiming to show the bigger picture of healthcare. It included information on climate change and the environment, as well as slides from Hans Roslin’s work on life expectancy. The second, later on in the year, was integrated into respiratory lectures with an hour being dedicated to learning about the environmental causes of lung disease (in 2016, the lecture was expanded to include health impacts of water pollution also).

First year students were also able to choose “Sustainable Healthcare” as an SSC topic. This involved  40 hours of project-based work for 5 students in a student-led module. The students and the tutor initially met for a chat about the overall learning objectives and the students subsequently submitted essay titles and brief abstracts for their proposed essays. Essay outlines were submitted half-way through the SSC (limited to an A4 sheet of paper) and then at the end of the four-week period submission of a 10 page essay was required.

A lesson learnt from student feedback is that students may have preferred a more structured start to the module, such as a seminar to introduce the topics. The tutor plans to replace the informal discussion based on pre-reading with a short seminar and discussion group to explore ideas for projects, which is slightly different from most SSC modules in Dundee which are usually entirely student-led.

A four-week SSC on sustainability is also planned for second and third year students. Fifteen students will be given the option to attend seminars followed by project-based work on sustainable healthcare. This SSC will be enhanced by combining seminars with other SSCs that run simultaneously, therefore getting a broad mix of engagement from students throughout the medical school.

Pedagogical format: Seminar, lectures and project work

Assessment: Assessment of the SSCs was completed by educators who marked the students’ written submissions and / or presentation of their project work 

Sustainability learning outcomes addressed:

  • PLO 1 - Describe how the environment and human health interact at different levels
  • PLO 2 - Demonstrate the knowledge and skills needed to improve the environmental sustainability of health systems
  • PLO 3 - Discuss how the duty of a doctor to protect and promote health is shaped by the dependence of human health on the local and global environment

Dundee, Scotland

Ellie Hothersall, e.hothersall@dundee.ac.uk