For this term’s “spotlight interview” we speak to Dr SanYuMay Tun, who has recently been appointed to the new Medical School post of Lead for Education for Sustainable Healthcare. She discusses her new role and how we can all promote sustainability in our teaching.
SanYuMay, you have recently taken up the new office of Lead for Education for Sustainable Healthcare. What does this role entail?
As you say, this is a newly created post in line with the GMC requirement for doctors to be trained to practise sustainably. My role is to advise on embedding Education for Sustainable Healthcare, or ESH, in the curriculum, and to help faculty to incorporate this into their own teaching. I also deliver some educational content to students directly, for instance when transitioning into their final year. The medical students are enthusiastic for this and most are very aware that the climate and biodiversity crisis will increasingly impact their home and professional lives. I’m also developing connections on the theme of sustainability outside of the Medical School, both within and beyond the wider university.
You have a background in General Practice. How has this influenced your views on sustainability?
General practice is an ideal place to exemplify sustainable clinical practice, because key principles of ESH are prevention and person-centred care. Students spend a lot more time in hospital placements, so may think of secondary care as the norm, but General Practice is vital in keeping people as well as possible, and that also has a benefit to the environment through avoiding the more resource-intensive care pathways, while having better outcomes.
How might GP tutors include teaching on sustainability in their day-to-day supervision of medical students on clinical placements?
Sustainable healthcare is essentially good medical practice, so a good start is just to be aware of the positive sustainability aspects of doing what you do, and to point out the co-benefits for the environment and for patients. Every time you motivate a patient to be active and walk or cycle on their commute, or reduce the red meat in their diet, or insulate their house to lower their heating bill, that’s also sustainability in action and is good both for that patient and for the planet. Good prescribing processes like on-going review and deprescribing, or social prescribing where appropriate, are also great examples to draw on.
What advice would you give to GP tutors who are interested in getting more involved in helping you develop a sustainability curriculum across the medical school?
I would love to get together with the people who would like to be more involved! Please reach out on email@example.com. There is such a lot that can be done, and GP tutors have so much to contribute, because students are really impressed by seeing a clinician practising sustainably.
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