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Interview with Eva Larkai, a final year medical student at the University of Bristol, on decolonisation of STEM and Medicine

This interview covers the decolonisation of STEM with a particular emphasis on medicine.
[Music] hello and welcome to uh decolonizing education the future learning course my name is steve eichel and i’m professor of material science and engineering at the university of bristol i’m delighted to be joined by eva larco who’s a final year medic student and she’s also working with the bay medical student group at the bristol medical school and she’s going to talk to us about decolonizing medicine welcome eva what does it mean to you to decolonize stem so for me i think um modern science has undoubtedly been entangled with colonialism and actually i think that the legacy of colonialism still pervades and shapes science today and for those of us involved in the drive to decolonize we recognize that this work is incredibly complex and multifaceted and for many people being welcomed into the discussions for the first time it can be somewhat confusing and inaccessible but at its core i think that the work to decolonize seeks to understand and disrupt the ways that colonialism racism and eurocentricism have for so long saturated and dictated what we learn how we learn and who we learn from and i think it’s a call to identify and interrupt those sort of persisting remnants of empire in our academic practice and to to then go on to appreciate different and equally valid systems of knowledge particularly those from outside the west in regions like africa asia asia and latin america but actually i think beyond that it’s also about the learning experience and the learning environment as a whole rather than just the focus on subject material and actually i think it requires a real collaborative cross-disciplinary approach that fosters an environment for unlearning and reconstructing rethinking and co-creating what examples are there where colonial thought has influenced medicine specifically so for medicine i i think there are it’s quite difficult to neatly define the areas that should be included into the colonial work but for us there have been a few important areas to start so we can think about increasing the visual representation of darker skin tones in clinical teaching so sort of moving away from whiteness being default and representing sort of the multi-ethnic community that we see here in the uk and across the world it’s also been about authentic and non-stereotypical inclusion of people from diverse backgrounds and actually i think what’s quite important to this work is the discussions on the history of race and medicine and how these things can be embedded in our ethics teaching and we’ve also been trying to sort of examine some of the existing health inequalities in ethnic minority groups and seeing if there are any links to colonialism and in what we’re seeing today around and sort of mortality and morbidity in in the patient’s population but actually like moving on from those things i’ve mentioned i think it’s also about applying a decolonial lens to research approaches norms and practices and so considering how global research has been influenced by the colonial legacies that affect the knowledge that we impart in education and so beyond that it’s then recognizing some of the geographical biases in research outputs whereby the institutions in the west often dominate the the global not the global knowledge that exists today so what other challenges do you think to decolonizing medicine so i think there are several challenges and i think and the more that we engage in the work the more that we’re we’re realizing sort of the um the extent of the challenges that this work um is highlighting but i think across medicine and other disciplines the same sorts of questions are being asked so how exactly can we decolonize who should be doing the work to decolonize and how can we truly think critically about all parts of our education to decide what is to be included and how it should be included so in that way i think the challenges are similar across disciplines but for medicine specifically i think what we’re asking for is um to to encourage doctors to cultivate an attitude of open-mindedness curiosity and humility and to actually to self-examine and recognize their own implicit biases and to challenge them and and then to go beyond that and think about how that might then impact upon patient outcomes and the healthcare environment as a whole and and so i think actually um beyond that there’s a real sort of push towards a translation into action and and tangible noticeable changes in how we care for patients and how we fulfill our duty of care to patients to provide health care that is holistic and also safe so so for medicine i think it’s that core element of of actually translating that reflective practice into into what was what we’re doing on a day-to-day basis to impact patients that are here and and now so who else is working in this area and what are you engaged in right now so there are multiple people working in this area at the moment which makes it quite exciting um because actually what we’re finding is that there’s a lot of co-creating going on both within the university of bristol and beyond but from a personal perspective i’m working with medical students here at bristol but also medical students nationally in other university um institutions across the country and um alongside that we’re trying to link up the work that’s going on more widely in the the university of bristol and and that that important cross-disciplinary approach that i’ve been sort of talking about i think really is is being seen as a positive thing as different disciplines are working together at the university of bristol in for example like decolonize uab and forever africa conference and events which is run by a lecturer called faluque here at the university of bristol so i guess i’m saying here there are lots of people involved in this work and being welcomed into this discussion both here at the university who i’m working with and also across the country but i think actually because of the nature of this work i think it needs to go beyond our immediate spheres of influence and actually we need to be welcoming people across the globe in in africa and asia and latin america and these non-western regions who have been directly impacted by some of the effects of colonialism in welcoming them and their thoughts and ideas into into the conversation thank you very much you

See the transcript of this video at the bottom of this page.

The work to decolonise seeks to disrupt the ways that modern science and medicine have been entangled with the legacy of colonialism. It is a call to recognise and interrupt the impacts of this in our academic practice, and to welcome different and equally valid systems of knowledge – particularly those originating outside the West. It is a shift towards a curriculum that embraces an interconnected global view of science and medicine, where the historical context is considered alongside the necessary technical content, and where there is true diversity in the voices being heard and represented. In medicine specifically, it asks for medical education that encourages medical educators and clinicians to recognise and challenge their own biases, to recognise how colonialism has impacted clinical outcomes and healthcare environments today and to consider how this can translate to treating patients, safely, equitably and holistically. This work encourages a collaborative, cross-disciplinary approach that fosters an environment of unlearning, re-constructing, re-thinking, and co-creation. In this video Eva Larkai looks at these elements in relation to medicine, and reflects on how we might decolonise the subject giving better patient outcomes.

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Decolonising Education: From Theory to Practice

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