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Primus inter pares

Medical Education Conferences in the UK

“Of the physician’s character, the chief quality is humanity, the sensibility of heart which makes us feel for the distress of our fellow-creatures” (John Gregory, 18th Century Scottish physician).

Educating doctors and health professionals is one of the most important tasks facing modern society, and Professor Irina Markovina and Jonathan McFarland (Sechenov University, Moscow) have been lucky enough to attend and participate in two conferences dedicated to Medical Education in September. The first was the Second Pyramid International Medical English Conference held in Norwich on the 10th September, and was dedicated to Medical English. There were participants from around twelve countries, including the USA, the UK, Spain, France, Switzerland, Serbia and Rumania and of course the Russian Federation. The conference was an interesting mix of EMP (English for Medical Purposes) researchers and university teachers, doctors and linguists. I would like to highlight two talks; one by retired GP, Dr Stephen Nickless who gave a fascinating talk on his experience in teaching English to refugee doctors in London, and Ros Wright, an expert in teaching English to doctors and nurses, who spoke about the importance of the social history when interviewing a patient, in her aptly titled talk – “Booze, Burgers and Tats”.


Professor Markovina and Mr McFarland gave a talk entitled “The Ins and Outs of Medical English”, in which they talked about how their collaboration started exactly two years previously at the same conference, and how they were aiming to make Sechenov University an “English-friendly environment”. The presentation

focused on specific needs in communication and other skills of the Russian and Spanish medical profession as non-native speakers of English. It was extremely well received by the audience, and from the contacts made we believe that many interesting new projects could arise.

The next conference was quite different. It was organized by the NHS in Newcastle and was called the Future of Medical Education Conference (FOMEC), which, as you can see, was not focused on Medical English but on Medical Education, and for this reason the scope and range was far broader. There were some fascinating talks and I wish to comment on two. Margaret Chisholm, a Professor in Education and Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, USA, and Annalisa Manca, a Medical Educator from the University of Dundee, Scotland gave the first. It was a highly original, entertaining and very informative talk and workshop about how to use Social Media for medical professionals. Michael Ross, a GP, and Medical Educator based in Edinburgh, who is also co-editor of two important Medical Education journals, gave the second. He spoke about writing for publishing and gave some great tips on how to get published. All these speakers attended McFarland’s talk (in co-authorship with Irina Markovina) and showed great interest, and have promised to collaborate in the future. So, networking at conferences in critical to getting things moving forward.


Jonathan McFarland spoke about “International Clinical Sessions: a new approach to professional communication” with the very big difference being from the 1st conference that the majority of the audience were doctors. The audience was very interested and there were many questions; with one doctor even asking the speaker whether he was from Moscow or St Petersburg!

As Sechenov Medical University is looking to build bridges with different with different countries and make links with Universities and Medical Associations around the world then these conferences are of an unbridled importance. I believe that they are the doors leading to Internationalization, and to open these doors we need to go and participate in them, and persuade and encourage doctors and researchers from Sechenov to do the same.

As a Take Home Message I am going to finish with a quotation by Nelson Mandela that one of the most important speakers at FOMEC used to conclude her talk:

“ Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

Jonathan McFarland, Head of the Academic Writing Office

Irina Markovina, Head of the Department of Foreign Languages