Going the Distance
Overseas medical students are completing Edinburgh degrees in their home countries thanks to alumni donations to distance learning scholarships. We spoke to four of them about their experiences of online study.
Online study complements workplace experience, and allows students to interact collaboratively with contemporaries and tutors from around the world. The opportunity for students to be able to train without leaving their own countries is extremely important.
Dilesh Mogre is a speciality registrar in Mumbai who is also taking an online MSc in Surgical Sciences at Edinburgh. For him, this mode of study offers flexibility and opportunity.
“It’s a new way of learning that offers interaction with tutors and students from all corners of the world,” he says. “And working in a busy health centre catering to the urban slums of Mumbai, distance learning offers a convenient way to enrich my surgical knowledge while providing enough time to carry out my duties.”
Dilesh has been impressed by the levels of support he receives, too:
“The experience with the University has been invigorating, and the online portal where I access my study notes and tutorials exemplifies the institution’s holistic approach. The personal tutors are very kind, too – they’re patient and cooperative with a keen desire to bring out the best in my academic development.”
Edinburgh’s suite of masters online distance learning programmes encompasses a wide range of health issues for humans and animals. Marilyn Karani, who resides in Kenya, is currently completing an MSc in One Health, a flagship programme for human, animal and ecosystem health. She agrees that the flexible nature of online study allows her to structure her day more effectively, and is also thankful for the support of alumni donations:
“The support of donors has given me essential financial support”, she says. “Without it I would not have been able to study and subsequently contribute more to my country. The MSc will enable me to empower the community that I live in, and hopefully make it a better place.”
Marilyn is also pleased with the relationship she has with the University, and has ambitious plans for her future:
“The University has given me tremendous support through the provision of study material and tutoring. The online user interface is superb – we are miles apart yet so close. After graduation, I definitely plan to enrol for my PhD.”
The University of Edinburgh has developed practical and clinically appropriate distance learning qualifications so that students can train in their own countries to deliver the services so desperately needed by their communities. Frances Wurie-Sesay, a student of Public Health based in Sierra Leone, is confident that her Edinburgh education will reap benefits for her country in her future career:
“While I will certainly not be the first in Sierra Leone to have a masters in Public Health, I am very optimistic that my degree from Edinburgh, along with the MBChB I have already obtained, will be crucial in allowing me to help improve the health care delivery system in our post-Ebola setting.
She is also grateful that she was able to benefit from a scholarship:
“Receiving the financial support has been extremely beneficial, as it has enabled me to have a platform on which to engage in meaningful, constructive discussions with colleagues from all over the world. We all share a common goal of making healthcare delivery affordable, accessible and sustainable for people worldwide, and receiving this financial aid has greatly contributed to seeing our dream become a reality.”
Innocent Hatanga, a student of Global Health and Infectious Diseases from Zambia, is similarly enthused by the opportunities his online study could create for himself and his home country. He says:
“Zambia, like many developing countries, faces a huge burden with infectious diseases, along with a growing threat of non-communicable diseases due to a weak healthcare system. In the six years that I have worked as a frontline healthcare worker, I have seen first-hand the impact of the challenges that the country faces, and I would like to add another – inadequate healthcare personnel and related researchers and scientists.
“This is where the degree in Global Health and Infectious Diseases comes in. It’s designed for people like myself who would like to carry out research and help to build local scientific and knowledge bases that could be used to inform health policy. This will ensure that local health problems are met with local solutions informed/inspired by Global knowledge.
The academic’s view
Professor O James Garden, Regius Professor of Clinical Surgery and Honorary Consultant Surgeon, shares his thoughts on the importance of scholarships for online distance learning:
“As a director of online masters programmes, and a personal supporter of the scholarship programme, I am aware of many examples where students have only been able to participate in programmes through the generous support of alumni benefactors.
We remain committed to widening access to support the professional and academic development of our own surgical masters students, many of whom work largely unsupported with little or no access to quality postgraduate education.
The direct feedback from these students shows that this support is transformational. The College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine has also been fortunate this year to secure Commonwealth Commission Scholarship funding to assist students from low and middle income countries. However, the demand remains substantial and ongoing alumni support adds to the global impact of all our cutting edge distance learning programmes.”