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‘We’ll help you achieve your goals’

Prof Prokar Dasgupta, KHP Professor of Surgery, interviews Dr Sam Thenabadu, Deputy Dean of the Guy’s King’s St Thomas’ School of Medicine (GKT), about the new undergraduate surgical curriculum.

(2) Prof Prokar Dasgupta interviews Dr Sam Thenabadu about the GKT surgical curriculum - YouTube

Full transcript of the interview below:

Prof Dasgupta [pictured, left, below]: Please tell us about your new role within the medical school.

Dr Sam Thenabadu [pictured right]: It's an exciting time for our medical school. I've been part of the medical school for a long time. I studied here, in fact, in the 90s, so I haven't gone too far. You don't go too far when you're happy.

Prof Prokar Dasgupta and Dr Sam ThenabaduAnd I studied at King's College London. I was part of GKT when it when it merged and have been part of it, as a trainee and as a junior member of faculty, for a long period of time.

I'm very lucky. In the last six months I've taken on the role as Programme Director of the MBBS, so I’m privileged to look after everything from day one through to graduation.

And for us, that's beyond graduation as well. I think you also believe that we want the GKT alumni to be with us not just during medical school but onwards.

So much has changed in the last five years for us – we’ve had a major curriculum change. The curriculum that I studied in the 90s, we were still delivering. Some may say it was time for an upgrade, but the reason we changed it was to make it fit for purpose, make it what we need for today's doctors.

I'm excited that we've got a really good curriculum now, but in-between that delivery, COVID-19 came along, so we've had some significant challenges in how we deliver that.

Some may say, well, where is your surgery? And my comeback to that is: it's now everywhere during the programme.

We run a programme which is now divided into three sections: the foundations; then from what we call science to clinical practice; and then integrating clinical practice. Three distinct areas that we hope our students will evolve into.

If we think about surgery, I suspect as a Professor of Surgery you would believe that the foundations are absolutely core before you can move forward, and understanding the link between science and the clinical delivery. Then, how do we make you a better surgeon? So that, in essence, is what we're trying to deliver.

Prof Prokar Dasgupta: How has COVID-19 made us, as a medical school, evolve for the sake of surgical education and its delivery for our students?

Dr Sam Thenabadu: Well, of all the specialities, surgery suffered, didn't it? You, as a surgeon, will know that your life in theatre changed completely - who you were with, what you were wearing, how patients were prepared. Every single aspect changed.

For us, education had to continue, but the challenges were there of how we could have our students within that setting so they could learn from you, learn from your team. For a certain period of time we had to pause that, for patient safety, for your safety, your team’s safety.

But as quick as we could, we wanted to get back to work and understand the conditions that we could work under that remained safe for your team, for the patient, but that students could learn through.

I'm now at a point where I’m thinking about the silver linings, what did we get that was good that we would keep.

You yourself have delivered so much online teaching, so much that we're excited about. Could we be streaming live from the theatre? Could we be using recordings? With consent, of course.

We've had pockets of great practice like that and now is the time to see how can we really develop those areas.

Students learn best, I feel, by doing, and when they are your assistant, your apprentice, they will learn. The textbooks are there, of course, they need to study from them. As I said, the science, the foundations, need to be there.

But what COVID-19 has shown us is that it's hard to learn if you're not side by side with colleagues. I think that's inspired our colleagues. It's inspired our faculty to say they’ve missed the students being there. They were always welcoming, but they’re particularly welcoming at the moment. And it’s inspired our students to say, well, hold on a minute, I tried to learn from those textbooks, I did use the online resources, so it’s how we can bring it all together - the book knowledge, the fantastic online content, and the faculty support.

We're evolving and understanding how we can use and maximise the three areas that we had to develop.

Prof Prokar Dasgupta - I remember we used to do surgery without boundaries. We couldn't bring the students into the operating room, so we took the operating room to them using an augmented reality platform called Proximie, developed here at Guy’s and Thomas' NHS FT by one of our plastic surgeons. I thought that was extremely useful. With our BSc in surgical science we have a lot of technical skills training, through simulation, to improve safety without harming patients.

Tell me more about the curriculum itself. What's happening? What's new?

Dr Sam Thenabadu - I think when I was in medical school I did a ten-week surgical block. I did general surgery, it was wonderful, I enjoyed it. And I did surgical on-calls. And I saw, of course, anyone that came in during that time period.

Now what we've done is we've ensured that you have every aspect of surgery throughout the course, from year two onwards. Year two, year three, four, five.

And as I was very keen that you mentioned, the iBSc is where we're seeing the greater uptake of the surgical BScs and Masters.

We have now spread that surgery everywhere and I think that's based on good educational principles of not just having a one-off episode, which may be fortuitous if you're with someone who really wants to take you under their wing.

Moving that away from that one-off episode to really building foundations, revisiting areas. And the place that we've really seen the benefit for that is the students’ understanding, what does theatre look like? How can I orientate myself?

We all know that the first time you go anywhere it can be daunting. Surgery is not something to be taken lightly.

To see a student in second year evolve in the third year, to say well actually, no, I understand how to scrub. In the fourth year, well actually maybe I can assist. Maybe I can close. To see those final year students actually having their name on the operating note.

And what a proud moment for a student to be on the operating note. So that is the way we've seen it evolve. And I'm pleased that you mentioned about simulation as well, something that we're so passionate about at the school.

To see real-life surgeons describing real-life scenarios, bringing them to the simulation lab, doing it in a safe setting. What a great way to learn. And not just the common things for our students, but those rare occurrences that we do want them to know about as well. Things that you're delivering to your registrars, we're bringing forward and delivering to our students.

Prof Prokar Dasgupta: How do we inspire the GKT students who want to become surgeons? How do we provide them with the role models? For example, I mean, you and I had role models. What do we do for the students? Or do you think education today in surgery doesn't need role models?

Dr Sam Thenabadu: Personally, I always think if you have someone to look up to, aspire to follow in their footsteps, from the beginning of time we've had that and I don't see it going away. But what we need are passionate educators, highly skilled surgeons who are willing to put themselves out there and say, this is my journey. I'm so keen to work with yourself and colleagues to have champions for all our surgical specialities, to say, this was my journey, this is how we got to that.

It's not easy, but we will help you on your way.

Champions are something that we're looking to instil back into the medical school. We've had them over the years, but really, who is our urology champion? I may come to you. Who is our plastic surgeon champion? It is important we have these role models, to show students that they're not limited to cliches – and surgery is not limited a certain type of person can do it. At King's College London we have a very diverse group of students with a cosmopolitan faculty who can really inspire.

And this generation, you know, they’re calling out for it. And I think that we're very lucky at GKT we've got great champions, so I'll be knocking on your door to see how we can get you on board to help us.

Prof Prokar Dasgupta: What about the KCL Surgical Society and its mentorship scheme, which you very kindly approved. Do you think that's a good thing?

Dr Sam Thenabadu: Societies are the backbone of inspiring, they're the spark to me. And to see colleagues championing those societies, it heartens me.

I remember being in societies and thinking, where will this go? Well, it goes somewhere now. To think about a society, peers meeting and then to have junior surgeons, registrars, senior colleagues like yourself giving them the time has made such a difference to them.

It opens doors, and it opens their mind more than anything of what opportunities are there for them. It's made a huge difference and this year societies are a priority for us.

You and I both know that the individuals will probably be our peers in 15 years’ time, they'll be the professors of that generation. But it's wonderful to look back and think that this is where it started.

Prof Prokar Dasgupta: Sam, thank you so much. A clear message from Sam Thenabadu to our students. Surgery today at King's is in a better place than it was five years ago. I have no doubt about it.

All students who aspire to become surgeons. Please get in touch with Sam and I, and we’ll help you achieve your goals.

To learn more about KHP Academic Surgery, visit its webpage here.

To learn more about the GKT School of Medical Education, visit its webpage here.