A group of students gathers around a hospital bed, peering closely at a life-like mannequin, a patient simulator that mimics the internal physiology of a human body.
The learners are part of the UBC Faculty of Medicine’s Vancouver Summer Program (VSP), a four-week academic program offering international students a unique opportunity to experience Canadian health and life sciences education.
Following a demonstration, the students take turns practicing inserting a tube into the mannequin’s mouth, a lifesaving procedure known as intubation that opens up a patient’s airway so they can breathe or receive medicine.
Across the hall, another group of students practice drawing imitation blood using silicone training models. The students rotate through these and six other training stations during an afternoon of hands-on learning about topics from CPR and emergency response scenarios, to writing prescriptions and collecting patient histories.
“The thing I enjoy most about this program is how all-encompassing it is,” said Lucas Ng, a third-year medical student from Hong Kong. “You deliver research proposals, work with people of different backgrounds and engage in clinical skills. Here in the simulation centre, you can do activities you don’t do in early stages of medical school, like intravenous skills. It’s a lot of personal development.”
The UBC VSP Simulation Centre workshop, based at BC Children’s Hospital, is part of a broader course package that allows learners to experience clinical medicine and research in a hospital setting. This year, students were able to choose from 13 different course packages that cover a range of topics like psychiatry, public health and chronic disease.
The visiting VSP Students learn from experienced UBC faculty, clinicians, post-graduate students, and residents. They also gain experience and exposure in a variety of settings, with classes taking place on the UBC campus as well as off-campus sites, including BC Children’s Hospital and St. Paul’s Hospital.
This year, the faculty of medicine has the largest cohort of VSP students among all UBC faculties with a total of 354 students in the two cohorts which were offered from June 2, 2023-July 2, 2023 and from July 14, 2023-August 14, 2023. Learners came to Vancouver from 29 countries across Europe, Asia, Africa and South America.
“The way we teach is innovative, hands-on and covers a wide range of topics in medicine and health professions,” said Dr. Roger Wong, Vice Dean of Education, UBC Faculty of Medicine. “It offers a glimpse of what it’s like to learn at UBC and our world-class hospital training sites.”
“The program is about fostering a global community and creating opportunities for students from around the world to connect and learn from each other. It’s all part of our global commitment to social accountability, inclusion and collaboration.”
Beyond the classrooms, labs and hospital settings, the VSP schedule also provided opportunities for students to build friendships and expand their social and cultural experiences which included campus and city tours, nature workshops, talent shows, scavenger hunts and opportunities to visit Whistler, Tofino or Victoria.
Miscah Katawera, an occupational therapy student from the United Kingdom, appreciated the combination of academic and social opportunities.
“What I enjoyed most about the program was the fact that I got to meet people from other countries who are studying medicine and other science-related subjects,” she said. “I was able to learn from the very best doctors and health professionals and I hope to take my learnings forward in my occupational therapy career. I’ve also made friends for life.”
Her classmate Lucas agrees.
“Although we have different academic backgrounds, we work well together,” Lucas said. “It shows how medical students can achieve work-life balance, make friends and apply lecture knowledge to clinical skills. This program encourages us to do our best to make the world a better place. It really was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all of us.”