Making the Links went virtual!

By: Carlyn Seguin – Global Health Manager – Division of Social Accountability

Making the links is a unique certificate program for undergraduate medical students at the University of Saskatchewan, which is operated by the Division of Social Accountability and the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology. which MTL exposes the students to health issues in the context of an urban underserved community in Saskatoon or Regina, rural/remote and Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan and international communities globally.

The overall goal of this certificate program is to “improve the health of the community through socially accountable universities and professionals”. This program introduces students to complex and diverse settings and offers students opportunities to hone and apply the skills they have learned which are required under the CanMEDS framework to be a competent physician.

Summer practicums located in partner communities after the first and second year of the program are foundational opportunities to have practical experiences. The updated learning objectives are:

  1. Identify principles of and compare approaches to community advocacy
  2. Apply basic principles of leadership and collaboration in implementing community advocacy initiatives
  3. Apply the principles of patience, humility, and partnership  in working with peers and within community
  4. Describe challenges faced by organizations providing care and services during the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing responses
  5. Apply theoretical classroom learning on health inequities within resource constrained settings
  6. Explain historical influences on contemporary health inequities / issues
  7. Analyze how power and oppression operate interpersonally and structurally and locate themselves in such dynamics

With the challenges of engaging with communities for practicum experiences during COVID, we needed to pivot how students and their practicums hosts interacted. We expanded our net to include organizations whose mandate is focused on advocacy in health and health equity, with the ability for virtual engagement, we were able to partner with several new organizations! This included the Decent work and Health Network, the Peoples Health Network and the Saskatoon Interagency Response to COVID-19. This was in addition to 3 of our continued Indigenous community partners throughout Saskatchewan.

We shifted the content expectations of the program to better support the priorities of our partners and the practicum activities and outcomes were directed by the community/organization. Based on student reflections and evaluations of their 6-week summer practicums, this shift, paired with updated course materials was conducive to achieving the course objectives! We will be continuing to evaluate learning outcomes as well as those of the communities in the coming months to better integrate the learnings into future program planning, content and engagement strategies.

Stay tuned as we continue to report and share our learnings!