The Year 2012 by the Student Association Faculty of Medicine of Lisbon - Present, Past and Future
Francisco G. G. G. da Silva
President of the Board of AEFML
Sara Martinho C. Serafino
Vice-President of the Board of AEFML
David S. C. Sousa
Vice-President of the Board of AEFML
The History of our Faculty dates back over one hundred years with the creation of the Royal Medical-Surgical School in 1825, later transformed into what would become the largest centre for medical education in the country – the Faculty of Medicine of Lisbon. Created roughly half way through its history, Santa Maria hospital rose up in the sky as a grandiose building showcasing the aesthetics of the Estado Novo Regime. However, since its inception, it has been a place of unparalleled freedom. Reflection, culture and avant-garde vision bustled among the students of this school, to the extent that the political police PIDE paid more than a few visits to the headquarters of the already aged AEFML, whose Editorial Unit was already preparing the written basis of the April revolution. They were unable to stop us. In those days, everyone was well aware that the University did not belong to the Professors, Rectors or employees. The University was ours.
Since its foundation, time has passed through the Faculty of Medicine – and self-indulgence set in. Perhaps students forgot their responsibilities and renounced their duty to think and play an active role in the future of their mother house. We have been lost....
Who would have thought that AEFML would also forget its larger mission? Who could have believed that students would allow the legitimacy of their voices to be questioned under any circumstances? Who could have believed it? We let ourselves fall asleep quietly, convinced of the existence of deceptive stability.
On a hot 29th of June 2011, the 97th Directorate of AEFML took office facing one of the most remarkable and immortal symbols of our Faculty – the sculpture of Master Egas Moniz. If, on the one hand, its 97 years of existence could make one expect yet another ceremony identical to the 96 that preceded it, the truth is that something fervent characterised each of the speeches made that morning. It was time to fight again for student representation! Whereas in the past we just let it happen, allowed it to happen, and watched things happen passively and powerlessly, now the fear of defending our beliefs was definitely gone. We cannot defend our beliefs at the Olympiads! Nor at the romantic Cultural Soirées! Let alone at parties and roasted chestnut festivals! We need to do it in terms of Pedagogy, Medical Education and defend the rigour of our own education.
The Faculty of Medicine of the University of Lisbon has a major social responsibility which students are not exempted from – Excellence in Medical Education.
We must admit that it is at times of disappointment, discouragement and sadness at the attitudes of many who should not be anything other than models to be followed, that we realise how important our work, as the alma mater of this academy, is and will be for its future. Without the strength and commitment of its students this faculty will surely be doomed to live forever in the shadows of a past glory which, after all, proved too short-lived. And this is why, even in the current “Age of Crisis”, we shall not settle for self-indulgence and for a simple “it will do”. We demand – and we want it to be demanded of us – Excellence!
Freedom does not preclude the need to act; rather, it makes it necessary.
We shall invest more of our time! We will continue to believe! We will keep on working (even when we are perfectly aware that someone else, more competent and qualified, simply had no time to dream beyond selfishness amidst so many patients, consultations and other occupations).
The strength of alliances leads to major victories. And FMUL is no exception. Major projects and achievements emerged as a result of the unprecedented proximal relationship with its Directorate the, as follows:
- Every six months a document that is undeniably one of the most vital tools for analysis, reflection and assessment of the pedagogical situation of our institution is produced by students for lecturers: FML Hot Topics;
- Through the Degree Committees, we went beyond what had been done in the past in the revised statutes of the AEFML, which was to establish their existence and which proved to be excessively restrictive and theoretical. In cooperation with all its members, we produced a concrete document unifying all its work (methodology, competences and duties), which was approved at a Students’ General Meeting: Degree Committees Regulations.
- We took legitimate responsibility to be represented in all meetings of the Year Committees, without prejudice to the Year Committees and for the sake of safeguarding the best interests of Medical Education of Excellence for all students in the six years of the Medical Degree;
- We have organized the largest training event ever (over eighty participants) specifically aimed at colleagues from each Degree Committee with the aim of providing them with more and better tools for more productive work: I Seminário Ser Aluno Hoje (Being a Student Today Seminar);
- Even during the summer months, we worked with several university clinics so as to bring real improvements and changes in all syllabi. The joint work between students and lecturers is undoubtedly the most productive, and the obvious improvements made at several levels – for example, at the Surgery II University Clinic – attest the openness and willingness of both sides.
- Finally, also as a result of the important collaboration with the Faculty of Medicine, the new Study Room Professor Eduardo Coelho was built. It is a new, modern and well-equipped room where we are proud to see nearly 100 students every day. At last, students can again study in an environment that is more conducive to studying: the educational establishment that welcomes them every day.
ut we must disappoint all those who believed our work would end here. Over the next six months of our mandate, we intend to undertake not “short-term” work, rather address the “future” of those who are still to come.
Any idea that is absolute in us, that is, adequate and perfect, is true.
Baruch Espinoza We have established our next moves and it will be very difficult to dissuade us from what we firmly believe.
- If until now the lack of quality and magnitude of feedback from students acted as a justification for not legitimising necessary but unpleasant measures, perhaps this situation will not continue for much longer. We have carried out surveys (as is done already in year 3 of FMUL) to assess the quality of teaching, of learning, and of the lecturers. Yes! Time has come to start assessing the “weakest links” of our system. In the same way we expect nothing less than rigour to be required from us, we will demand the same from those who will make us grow as future doctors of this country: the lecturers.
- We have seen recently a lenient and excessively passive attitude on the part of the pedagogical council. However, following an electoral process that fostered reflection among all candidates (teaching and non-teaching members of the Pedagogical Council of FMUL), we will continue to make efforts to encourage synergy (which can only produce good results) between the Pedagogical Department of AEFML and the Pedagogical Council of FMUL. We shall pull down walls and fight against obstacles and conceit. Now is the time to build solid and lasting bridges;
- We shall continue to make ourselves available to work with all curricular areas that are willing to grow hand in hand with us. Perhaps due to the energy and freedom typical of youth, we have the ability to fly and dream, which may be transmittable to all those who, like us, are a step higher;
- We will be the shield that will protect our beloved institution from the grip of the “crisis” and from the decisions coming from above and tactless cuts it will bring. But we shall not take the easy way, and will not make the mistake of making irresponsible and extreme decisions that will only expose our instability or lack of control. Together with the Board of our Faculty, we will support all the measures that promote stability and maintain the quality of our education. Days will not be easy... but we need to believe that there is strength in numbers!
- We take pride in the fact that our Institution managed to implement one of the most revolutionary curricular reforms in history, but we also believe that there is room for improvement. Thus, we shall start a period of joint consultation involving students and lecturers concerning the curricular organization of the basic years of our degree. Following a quite long trial period, we are now in a position to evaluate and make suggestions as users of the new educational system. We have already produced a document containing critiques and suggestions which will be sent to all appropriate teaching and management bodies.
- We will not be corporatist. We will do more than demand! And we will be the first to accept our failures as part of our education system, raising the awareness of colleagues and making them accountable. We want more students attending theoretical classes! We want to fight against the traditional “sign on my behalf”! We want regular attendance! We want to fight off and prevent inappropriate attitudes inside our Faculty! We want fewer “flip flops” on the wards, and will fight for it!
- In the interaction between students and the Faculty, many human resources from all Institutes, University Clinics and Academic Section are involved. There is much room for improvement here: opening times of the services, quality of the service provided by the secretariats of the institutes and university clinics, accessibility and regular updating of the online platforms, etc. The first meeting between the Coordination of Administrative Units (CPA) and the students’ representatives took place last week. We cannot but express our satisfaction at this initiative, which was prompted by the very FMUL. If there is a will to improve, we shall contribute to it too. We are available and have ideas; together, we shall build an increasingly better Faculty.
- The “Age of Crisis” requires us to readapt to the new demands imposed by the socioeconomic context we are part of. And we believe that the urgent need to readapt is precisely where the absolute need to outline new strategies and objectively prioritise our training lies, so that we can be prepared and able to exercise our profession with seriousness and competence in an increasingly international context. At a time when the merger between the University of Lisbon and the Technical University of Lisbon becomes more of a certainty, we cannot but express our willingness to be active participants in what will undoubtedly a vital, advanced, and ambitious reform which, above all else, looks far into the future. We want to be students at an internationally renowned Faculty of Medicine of Lisbon that is part of a University with breadth, quality and reputation at the highest level of world scientific competition. We are confident that, as students, we will be pivotal in the construction of this reality that will surely make us more demanding physicians and scientists at the service of our patients and of the society we belong to.
- We will continue to foster the construction of a more balanced lecturer/student structure, with fewer “pedestals” and more modern and proximal. If some time ago the difficulty of scheduling a meeting with the Honourable Director of the Faculty could resemble that of a Head of State, the truth is that this has changed! We wish to continue to be welcome at any time and whenever problems come up, to keep on achieving consensus and joint responsible attitudes. The loyalty of both sides should continue to be the basis of this relationship based on mutualism.
We are perfectly aware that we do not please everybody and that many would feel more comfortable having a “low-voiced and passive” AEFML.
However, as Picasso put it:
If we knew exactly what we will do, what would be the point of doing it?
If we were pushy, caused discomfort, questioned matters and were a pain, then it is a sign that we have been on the right track. Change necessarily involves resistance. And as in the (almost theatrical) illustrated piece by Miller-Guerra, we wish to be the reformers, not the conservatives.
We could also offer our reflections about more ideas and projects in several areas, but a lot has been said already, and the future must be made of attitudes and not mere promises – in typical Portuguese fashion. The topics addressed here are inevitably dynamic. The Student Association of the Faculty of Medicine of Lisbon will continue to invest, in collaboration with its Academy and the Rector’s Office of the University, on aspects that are essential to human beings: Culture, Arts, Scientific Education, and Sports are, and will always be, a fundamental requirement for the plurality required of doctors in the twenty first century.
It is our deep conviction that the future is built on the present. Although we are aware of the difficult situation in which we live today, we see it as a unique opportunity and as a challenge to accurately and clearly rethink what we want from our Faculty and University, and ultimately, what we want for our lives and our country.
Guarantees? We do not have them, but we are sure that as long as we believe that our education as Citizens and Doctors of Excellence is possible at this school, that hope will make us incessant fighters and winners!
(The authors deliberately chose not to use the New Spelling Agreement).