Medical Student Exchange Program – My Experience

“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions”
-Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

I strongly believed that pure luck had little to do with my destiny or success and it is much more about my hard work and dedication. My passion and devotion for the latter is still unshakable but since the time I had been selected for the exchange programme I truly believe how much luck Almighty has blessed me with. Travelling anywhere in itself is a form of privilege, let alone to the foreign country. It was a burst of experience to be in the institution with similar mission, vision and goal as PAHS to make healthcare available to everyone equally but more importantly serving the humanity. The exchange helped me immensely to have a vision for our country to adapt the better aspects the Western Sydney University has been practicing in our very own settings. To be able to be a part of institute in Nepal with such a noble mission and to be able to experience the similar institute without any constraints of learning and opportunity made my resolution to serve the humanity and making the world a better place to live than it would have been in our absence even more powerful.

I was in the Campbelltown Medical School for about two weeks. Though I visited lots of people and places I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a significant chunk of my time staying in the University Student village itself. It not only facilitated me to be more familiar with the university setting but also helped me immensely to participate in day to day activities of the medical school. I got to participate in Clinical Procedural Skills classes, Introduction to Clinical Medicine (ICM) classes, Problem Based Learning (PBL) sessions and many lectures and practical classes. I was also able to visit MacArthur hospital (one of the teaching hospitals of Campbelltown Medical School). I was in the hospital for my Clinical Procedural Skills classes and ICM classes. The hospital seemed very much organized and less crowded than that of Nepal.

Clinical Procedural Skills classes are those in which we have would have a session lead by experts where they demonstrate clinical procedural skills and practice on medical simulation dummies. I attended a session where they taught in detail about procedure of nasogastric intubation technique. It was a bit more unusual experience for me as here at PAHS we are not much involved in learning clinical procedures in the basic science years. In my opinion, early exposure of medical students to these skills would help them deal better while dealing with real world patients. This may also aid to minimize patient harm as we are training medical students to do the procedure on manikins much before they perform the same on actual patients.

The Introduction to Clinical Medicine (ICM) classes were pretty much similar to what we have here in PAHS. Students are taught in small groups were they first learn the history taking and then physical examination skills which they practice on their peers. All of these processes are lead and monitored by content experts who try their best to make the session more interactive and the learning experience much more delightful.

I attended practical and lecture sessions on different subjects including anatomy and histology. They were also much similar to what we have here in PAHS. There were some classes that were mandatory to attend. One major difference I found between the teaching learning methodology of PAHS and UWS was that the small number of students in PAHS allow a more interactive and intimate teaching methodology. It also allows teachers and facilitators to know each student and his/her progress in detail even without any formal documentation of the same. This sort of ‘faculty intensive training’ may also have some limitations as we cannot increase the number of medical students without significant increase in faculties and facilities.

Though the core objectives and agenda are the same, the PBL systems in Western Sydney University are much different than what we have here at PAHS. The cases were incredibly organized and systematic. All the case triggers were made available in the University’s Academic website. Besides that, there were only two sessions for a PBL case in Western Sydney University unlike here in PAHS where we have four sessions (including a Wrap Up session where each PBL group of students are assigned individual case objective and they present PowerPoint presentation on the same followed by questions and successive explanation by content experts). Since we have three sessions dedicated solely for small group discussions, the learning objectives is divided for multiple sessions unlike at Western Sydney University. To my knowledge, apart from the benefits of PBL method over traditional lecture methods (which again has its own benefits and limitations) the inclusion of PowerPoint presentations has been immensely helpful to students. It stimulates and encourages students not only to develop their presentation and public speaking skills but also to be involved themselves in the learning process which is vital for long term memory and retention
especially required in the field of medicine.

I also came to know about the healthcare system of a developed country and compare and contrast the same with that of Nepal. The basic academic objective was to learn about the similarities and differences in context of teaching and learning methodology between PAHS and Western Sydney University. There were a lot of similarities in the curriculum and some differences which both of the universities could analyze and incorporate it in their institution if it suits the need of the students. Another major difference was Community Based Learning and Education (CBLE) which makes the students of PAHS well oriented with the ground reality of the community, health system of the nation as well as the challenges and opportunities in the health care areas. The exposure of the students to diverse rural communities help them to identify and address population related health issues effectively. It also helps to develop clear insights about the nature and magnitude of the community health problem as well as foster an attitude of compassion and desire to contribute towards its resolution in the future. In addition, the CBLE also provides an excellent platform for enhancing our research skills. Western Sydney university is also committed to uplift the health status of aboriginals and increasing their representation at all levels of University workforce. It also has some research components in its curriculum just like PAHS.

Apart from academic activities I was very fortunate to be able to participate in various other activities with a lot of people. I literally have no words to reflect the hospitality shown to me by Prof. Jenny Reath and Tim Usherwood. I was in Jenny’s home for few days including the day of my arrival at Sydney. She helped me immensely to blend in an entirely different setting and culture of a foreign country. We visited around Sydney the next day I arrived as it was a public holiday in Australia. We visited many places including Opera House, Darling Harbour and Sydney Wildlife World. Jenny made the visit even more interesting by telling many interesting stories and history associated with different places around Sydney. We went to the university the next day. I also would love to extend my deepest gratitude to all the university staffs and incredibly welcoming students especially university staffs Isabel Mellor, Penny Lee and Debbie Glover. They all helped me truly to be able to feel at home in such a different setting. As Albert Einstein said- “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change”, they all helped me a lot to make the necessary changes during my stay at Campbelltown Campus. I am also highly indebted to Oliver and Lucas who were there for
me during my entire stay in the University. I was also able to attend party with Oliver and his birthday lunch with his family which was a very lovely memory. Oliver and I also went to various places including the Bondi beach on weekends. It was incredibly amazing. With Jenny and Tim, I also went for a dinner in Dr. Babu’s place (a Biochemistry faculty at PAHS studying in Sydney). It reminded me homemade food for a while. And the Indian sweets desert by Jenny was truly fabulous.

I also went to The Blue mountains. Katoomba to stay with Dr. Louise McDonnell for a day when we went for trekking and she showed me three landmark weathered sandstone peaks, The Three Sisters. It was amazing experience with Dr. Louise and her daughter Sarah. Louise also made me taste a truly Australian food vegemite. It was seriously indescribable!!!

The opportunity made me feel worthy and gave a tremendous boost to my self-confidence. It reinforced my passion and commitment to serve the disadvantaged and unprivileged people throughout the globe. Steve Jobs said- “Do what you love”. The reverse is just as true- “Love what you do” I am sure that my experience and understanding will be perfectly reflected in the form of love to my profession, compassion, empathy, kindness and more importantly in relentless passion in my work ethic for my life mission in my future. I truly hope that these exchange programs which are really worth doing continues for the fortunate future medical students as well.

Finally, I would like to provide special thanks to entire PAHS family for designing and implementing such an innovative curriculum which not only produces technically competent doctors but also teaches the medical professionals the art of compassion, tolerance and responsibility.


Article by:

Mr. Anish Dhakal

Patan Academy of Health Sciences (PAHS)

MBBS 5th Batch

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