The COVID-19 pandemic presents higher education institutions with challenges and opportunities, as well as questions, one of which is: Are future healthcare professionals being trained properly? We interviewed Claudia Patricia Jaramillo Ángel, dean and full professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Caldas (Colombia), to find out how higher education should evolve within the context of COVID-19 so that we can bring it into line with the goals established by the United Nations 2030 Agenda.
Jaramillo is a physician with a PhD in Public Health and a member of the global cluster of universities working on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 on good health and well-being. The cluster is being led by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya's eHealth Center. Seven institutions from all over the globe, including the UOC and the University of Caldas, are working to promote understanding and application of SDG 3 in higher education. On 27 October 2020, in collaboration with the International Association of Universities (IAU), they will be holding their first public activity: a webinar on the challenges facing the higher education system in terms of training healthcare professionals during a period marked by COVID-19.
How should universities train future healthcare professionals post-COVID-19?
The COVID-19 pandemic forces us to rethink new processes and methods for training students, professionals and communities. For example, it is important that programmes of study include online strategies for teaching courses. And we need to strengthen clinical simulation centres, train teachers in the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) and have contingency plans that prepare us for any future epidemics and other global health challenges.
As higher education institutions, it is necessary to structure undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in an online format and raise students' awareness about the importance of making use of these methods.
The pandemic is also an invitation to rethink healthcare systems. How do we move towards more sustainable models adapted to address the 2030 Agenda challenges?
Without a doubt, the pandemic has motivated us to look for new alternative ways of living and working. Educational institutions have rethought and restructured their practices, in order to continue the teaching processes and thus address communities' needs.
We also strive to strengthen a healthcare system backed by technologies, where e-health is a sustainable alternative in the long term. The educational model and the healthcare services provision model have to be redesigned.
The University of Caldas forms part of the Global Cluster's SDG 3 sub-cluster. How would you rate this collaboration and the activities that are being carried out?
For us, the activities that the UOC has carried out as leader of the consortium have been vital. The formation of the international cluster in charge of furthering SDG 3 enables us to establish a working path, which is expressed in the cluster's mission, vision and objectives. With this process, we have been able to identify the individual strengths and recognize possible partners for the group work.
Networking is important in order to move forward with training, research and social appropriation of knowledge processes. Combining strengths will allow for joint learning and achievements that make a greater impact.
How is the cluster organized in order to achieve the objectives of the 2030 Agenda?
The creation of a cluster allows actions and strategies to be prioritized to drive global activities that have an impact on the goals proposed by SDG 3. The work carried out by the academic community enables proposals to be generated with training curricula focusing on SDG 3, and for research projects and plans related to the latter to be prioritized, in order to position and create a positive impact on the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda. As a cluster, is it important that we get organized and allocate responsibilities, in order to advance the objectives proposed, making the most of the strengths of each of the institutions participating in the cluster.
Which of the University of Caldas' areas of knowledge and lines of research can offer the most experience to the cluster?
Within the framework of the Faculty of Health Sciences, we have research groups such as the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention research group, the Geriatrics and Gerontology research group and the Maternal, Perinatal and Telehealth research group. Their lines of research delve into and address many of the thematic areas and goals proposed in the cluster.
Moreover, the accumulated experience in telehealth has boosted training and research processes at a national level and, clearly, this experience will constitute a significant contribution to making the cluster more dynamic. Likewise, the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention research group will be able to make a valuable contribution to the cluster's objectives through its lines of research.
The University of Caldas ranks tenth in the national research indicators list, and this also constitutes an institutional strength that we can contribute to the cluster.
One of the UOC's research centres is the eHealth Center, which focuses on research into and the promotion of e-health. In your opinion, how does e-health contribute to SDG 3 on good health and well-being?
The purpose of SDG 3 is to guarantee a healthy life and promote well-being for everyone at all ages, and e-health, thanks both to its dynamics and coverage, makes a valuable contribution towards achieving this goal. It is able to transform the healthcare system and make it more sustainable, accessible to all and salutogenic, in other words, person-centred.
E-health also helps generate training processes aimed at the community, social agents and professionals.