Universal Healthcare Through Social CommitmentBy Miriam Bello | Tue, 10/06/2020 - 17:53
Q: How has UDEM adapted its educational offering as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: Protecting our community was a priority as an institution made up of students, teachers, administrative staff, collaborators and families. UDEM decided to act in a way that would allow us to protect our community even before the authorities released any official mandate. Since the beginning of March, the university suspended face-to-face activities. UDEM integrated a sanitary committee of experts from the vice-rectory of Health Sciences, which has been in charge of analyzing the pandemic’s behavior at a global, national, state and local level. Based on this, we were able to take the proper preventive and sanitary measures to protect our community.
Before the pandemic, only 3 percent of UDEM’s course offering was online so our migration within a week was a great effort for the institution and all collaborators and faculty who had worked to deliver quality education.
Q: How does UDEM ensure continuity in practical medical courses?
A: We have different levels to tackle these practices. Traditional practical courses migrated to a hybrid modality where we combined case management of simulated situations remotely, where students engage in discussions guided by their professors and other virtual work groups. While this is a different teaching method, we are still transmitting clinical experience and knowledge. We are aware that the physical interaction and practice with patients for specific skills and competences is relevant, so we relied in new technologies and simulations where students have been able to compensate part of this challenge. The online modality is not permanent and we have contemplated future activities to overcome any missing competency in our students and this will be done once it is safe for students and faculty to do so.
Q: Some analysts have predicted that thousands of students will abandon college due to economic hardships caused by the outbreak. What will be the impact on the future of medical training and healthcare?
A: UDEM has created a program aid with personalized support options that go beyond offering discounts to make sure that students are able to continue their education regardless of the economic hardships. This also means taking care of students’ health as we approach their well-being beyond the biological sense. Healthcare can be threatened by economic circumstances, physiological and social events. Mexico is a very polarized country and UDEM is aware that not all students have the same economic capacities and connectivity opportunities. We developed a support program for all students to make sure they have the technological resources to access their online education.
Doctors will always be required and people who have a vocation for medicine are driven fundamentally by the desire to provide a service. These are things that will not change. UDEM students have been insisting on going back to their clinical activities and participating in any way they can to assist patients during the pandemic, despite the risk of contagion. Certainly, there will be a change in the profile of people enrolling in programs of medicine; however, this will be a positive change that will increase the quality of professionals of the different areas of the healthcare sector.
Q: How does UDEM approach mental health and technology development challenges brought by COVID-19?
A: To approach mental health issues, UDEM developed distance attention programs, as well as face-to-face options where necessary, always following all sanitary measures, to support our community. This is also a resource open for anyone in need of support. We had already offered these services but the university focused on reinforcing them remotely by creating direct lines of attention for the internal and external population. We even put these services at the state’s disposition as we saw the struggles the pandemic was generating among the population.
Regarding technology, UDEM has been integrating this in its academic plans for years. We are focused on training students who are able to delve into molecular genetics, molecular biology and all aspects regarding microbiology, cell functioning, infections, diseases or diagnostic mechanisms. Our students are perfectly familiar with state-of-the-art technological tools and on many occasions, they have teamed with their teachers to develop projects that make UDEM stand out as an academic institution. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we have experienced an acceleration in our R&D projects as we had some useful and trend-setting proposals that could be used during this period, we also have a soil commitment and responsibility in this matter.
Q: How has UDEM contributed to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: UDEM was the first institution in Nuevo Leon to develop a PCR diagnosis for COVID-19 tests. This was a collaborative effort between faculty and students as we focus on training them with a strong R&D profile. We quickly determined that the detection capacity was key to properly diagnose COVID-19, which is why we implemented a PCR test laboratory to determine the difference between COVID-19 and influenza, for instance. UDEM made sure to have the needed infrastructure, methodologies and procedures to tackle this project and help the community effectively. Furthermore, UDEM has taken on the task of finding ways to make the PCR test more accessible for the population and always according to the regulations and best practices.
Q: How is UDEM addressing social and income inequalities that hinder universal healthcare plans?
A: UDEM follows a pedagogical methodology called Aprendizaje en el Servicio (Learning Through Service) where students are asked to develop projects based on a real community problem. For example, one project focused on vaccination coverage where students studied the public healthcare situation of a community to develop a solution that goes beyond a health educational exercise. Within these projects, communities also evaluate the student’s development. This is especially valuable because we are able to know the real impact of the project. By involving the community, we ensure the project will have a long-term sustainable impact.
We encourage multisectoral synergies between students and doctors, nutritionists and psychologists joining one project that can benefit from these areas. At UDEM, we think doctors cannot work in isolation and this has been proven during the COVID-19 pandemic as medical professionals created a network to support each other’s work for a better outcome.
Q: How can Mexico guarantee medical attention in rural areas of the country?
A: The lack of medical professionals in rural zones is undeniable. However, there are many new doctors graduating. One of the factors causing this lack of medical professionals and doctors in those areas is that they are not able to properly develop a life and career in not urban areas as these do not offer economic incentives and opportunities for them and their families to grow. This distribution problem is considered a more structural “health economics” related one and its solution does not depend on doctors but on infrastructure, equipment and other incentives. This complete scenario is not a reality in rural areas. Another factor is that medical professionals have developed the culture and trend toward hyper-specialization leaving behind primary care activities and some specialties that are key to society, like epidemiology for instance.
Universidad de Monterrey (UDEM) is a private academic institution accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. It participated in the creation of the health startup incubator Polaris HealthTech Center