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Welcome, and thank you for your interest in the University of Guyana School of Medicine.

Under ordinary circumstances, this would be an exciting time for the School. In addition to our 35-year-old MBBS programme – the only regionally accredited medical education programme in Guyana, and our Master of Public Health programme – established in collaboration with the prestigious Vanderbilt University, we are now able to offer the BSc in Optometry and BSc in Medical Rehabilitation. Both of these programmes were previously located in the Department of Public Health, in the former Faculty of Health Sciences (now College of Medical Sciences). By bringing them into the School, we will be better able to develop synergistic relationships and share resources across disciplines, thus increasing the richness of our students’ experience.

The School’s educational resources have also been increasing on several other fronts. More of our graduates with high-level specialist training are returning to join our faculty. The establishment of more than ten affiliate postgraduate residency programmes at our main teaching hospital, Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) – Guyana’s premiere tertiary care institution, has enlarged the pool of clinical preceptors for MBBS students in clinical rotations. Thanks to an exceedingly generous donation from Dr Yesu Persaud, a new purpose-built, clinical education complex located at the GPHC site will soon provide offices, teaching areas and recreational spaces for staff and students of the School as well as the affiliate residency programmes. The Memorandum of Understanding that governs the relationship between the University, GPHC and Ministry of Health has recently been renewed, and the Joint Relations Committee that oversees this partnership has been resuscitated, paving the way for greater collaboration and clearer lines of responsibility and communication.

The improvement in resources has been accompanied by an enhanced educational programme – including an updated MBBS curriculum, and higher levels of achievement by our students. In the past five years, the School has produced not just one, but two, University valedictorians from the MBBS programme. Our MBBS graduates are recognised for their outstanding performance across the Caribbean and further afield. This is a testament to the academic capacity and diligence of our students, and the calibre of our teaching staff. Our MPH graduates, though few, have been filling much-needed positions at various levels of the public health sector, including the central administrative body at the Ministry of Health. We look forward to meeting similar needs in the fields of Optometry and Rehabilitation in coming years, and all of our programmes will be actively working towards reducing inequalities in vulnerable or underserved communities in Guyana, by specifically recruiting students from such areas.

However, while we should take pride in our accomplishments, any feeling of satisfaction must be tempered by the sober realization that these are not “ordinary” times. The worldwide devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic has placed an unprecedented burden on all sectors of society, but has, arguably, taken its greatest toll on the health professions. Now, more than ever before, healthcare workers are required to be resourceful, resolute, and willing to place their own wellbeing at risk in order to fulfil their calling. It has been necessary to adapt medical practice to meet the demands of COVID-19 management and safety protocols, and approaches to medical education have all needed to change accordingly. 

At the UGSM, the safety of our staff and students is paramount, but we are cognizant of the need to maintain a high standard of teaching and absolute integrity of assessment while observing COVID-19 protocols. We have been able to achieve this balance by offering didactic sessions via online platforms such as Moodle and Zoom, and conducting assessments via Moodle and/or ExamSoft. In all programmes with practical components, senior students are being allowed into the clinical setting, under strict safety conditions, after receiving training in relevant protocols. All staff and students are oriented to the new requirements, and the School receives ongoing guidance from the University’s Office for Occupational Health and Safety. 

Clearly, these are challenging times. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. The production of highly effective vaccines signals an eventual return to a COVID-free state. Meanwhile, we must continue to observe the practices that help to ensure the safety of not only ourselves, but our families, friends, colleagues and our communities at large. Members of the School must lead the fight against COVID-19 and all other diseases, whether through research, practice, or simply setting lifestyle examples for others to follow. We must continue to strive for distinction in technical matters while maintaining compassion, honesty and empathy in our dealings with others. By working together for the greater good, we shall achieve our vision of becoming a centre of excellence in medical education and training. Most of all, HAVE FUN as you navigate the sometimes turbulent but exciting world of medicine.

Dr Reeta Gobin MBBS
MBBS MPhil PhD (Cantab)