Flinders University School of Medicine delivers a four-year Doctor of Medicine program across South Australia and the Northern Territory. Since its establishment as a Graduate Entry Medical Program in 1996, the program has followed a Problem Based Learning pedagogy. This approach allows students to clinically analyse a patient case to achieve core learning outcomes, with limited guidance and facilitation from tutors. Student learning is then supported through lectures and practical sessions.
Aboriginal health has predominantly been treated as non-core material in the medical curriculum, an ‘add on’ that is not considered critical to achieving key clinically orientated learning outcomes in medicine. This is despite the Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand’s endorsement of the Committee of Deans of Australian Medical Schools (CDAMS) Indigenous Health Curriculum Framework that provides guidelines on how to deliver Indigenous health into core medical education (Phillips 2004).
To date, Aboriginal health has been delivered at Flinders University through the occasional lecture, elective, and Problem Based Learning cases with limited student engagement. Problem Based Learning tutors have been known to spend little time on the Aboriginal health component, in part due to the course’s strong focus on Western medical sciences, but also due to the tutors’ own discomfort with Aboriginal health content (staff and students personal communication and informal self-reporting). Even though the Australian Medical Council’s (2012) Accreditation Standards stipulate that Aboriginal people should be employed to work on the development and management of all Australian universities’ medical programs, staffing for teaching Aboriginal health continues to be under-resourced.
For these reasons a project was conceived to develop a robust curriculum and pedagogical approach for integrating Aboriginal health into the core medical curriculum, with a focus on the principles of cultural safety.