The harassment and bullying of medical students has been an issue within Australian universities for some years. Perhaps not surprisingly the harassment often starts in the field, that is, in the clinics and hospitals.
Repeated studies have demonstrated that at least one-quarter of medical students have experienced gender based humiliation, or sexual harassment in medicine, with even more students experiencing bullying. These figures have changed little over the last twenty years. The workplace remains a site of endemic gender-based harassment, particularly for young women doctors.
On International Women’s Day the Australian National University (ANU) Medical School has announced the introduction of a Gender Equity and Diversity Committee set to actively focus on the prevention of harassment, bullying and discrimination for its students.
“The Gender Equity and Diversity Committee is an important addition to our Respectful Environments for Adult Learning in Medicine (REALM) strategy,” said Associate Professor Dipti Talaulikar, who has worked with Professor Christine Phillips, Professor of Social Foundations of Medicine and Professor Zsuzsoka Kecskes, the Director of the Medical School to create the Committee.
As part of REALM, since 2016, the ANU Medical School under the leadership of the Dean at that time, Professor Imogen Mitchell, developed a strategy to address this worrying matter. This includes Australia's first medical school handbook developed with students, providing guidelines to support people and processes to address bullying, harassment and discrimination on campus and in clinical settings; two yearly surveys of bullying and harassment across the student body; as well as best practice workshops introduced in 2018 to help students address bullying and harassment. The Gender Equity and Diversity Committee are a significant part of this strategy.
“All students are entitled to learn in an environment that is safe and supportive,” said Associate Professor Talaulikar.
“Our aim is to ensure an open environment which supports all students to learn without fear or experiencing discrimination.”
“We’re aware that teaching structures, such as inclusive teaching, and administration are an important part of the framework needed to minimise discrimination and bullying. We are therefore reassessing our structures to ensure they are effective in this regard,” explained Associate Professor Talaulikar.“
”We need change at every level of the medical industry – from education through to the workplace – to combat these issues. As a woman from a culturally diverse background, I have a real understanding of the problems faced by women and culturally diverse students and staff. I am proud to be involved in this initiative at a university that sees itself as a key player in creating this cultural change.”