Enriching the student experience through cross-disciplinary education

Ms Sukanya Chakraborty and Ms Aseel Sahib

The Bachelor of Health Science degree brings real-world, global health issues into the classroom - challenging students to develop clinical reasoning, laboratory skills, and lifelong research-led learning.

In keeping with current global health issues, the course Pathogenesis of Human Disease led by Dr Suzanne Estaphan has focussed one of its assignments on the pathophysiology of COVID-19 over the past couple of years.

“As the pandemic has evolved, we’ve seen the mental burden and stress that it has caused for so many people. Evolving our assessment theme to encompass the pathophysiology of stress-related diseases made a lot of sense,” Dr Estaphan explained.

The new assessment topic also offered an opportunity for collaboration between the schools of psychology and medicine. As the new School of Medicine and Psychology emerges, the two disciplines are finding ways to work together to enrich the educational experience for students.

With the support of Professor Elizabeth Rieger, Dr Estaphan recruited psychologists and ANU post-graduate students - Ms Sukanya Chakraborty and Ms Aseel Sahib - to develop and run workshops about the psychology of stress.

“Working closely with Aseel and Sukanya and the course lecturers, we were able to co-design the assignment and the workshop content,” Dr Estaphan noted.

Both women where supported throughout the process by Dr Estaphan and the Bachelor of Health Science program convenor, Associate Professor David Kramer.

“Suzanne and David were great to work with. They guided us to deliver the most suitable content for the students. They were approachable, welcoming and encouraging towards our styles. David also sat in on our first workshop and his presence was calming. His positive feedback motivated us to continue giving our best. It was a very positive experience.” Ms Chakraborty noted.

Ms Sahib who jointly ran the workshop with Ms Chakraborty said, “Sukanya is a clinical psychology Master student, so she took the practical side of the content, while I am doing a research PhD, so I spoke about the theoretical parts of stress and ran the discussion on research papers.”

Ms Chakraborty went on to say, “What I found especially rewarding was students staying back after the workshop to have a private word with us about the field of psychology. Many students showed an interest in psychology during the workshop and shared their views on what they think psychologists do. Some showed an interest in pursuing psychology-adjacent careers.”

Professor Kramer had high praise for Ms Chakraborty and Ms Sahib, “The content that Sukanya and Aseel created was terrific. Their willingness to participate has provided them a professional development opportunity, and resulted in deep engagement and learning for the students in the Bachelor of Health Science program.”

“I would definitely like to continue engaging in cross-discipline education activities,” advised Ms Chakraborty “There’s a lot of knowledge and experience to share both ways, and it can help broaden our minds and experiences in the field of health science.”

“The guidance and feedback that we received from the faculty in medicine has led to personal and professional connections that will certainly continue,” said Ms Aseel. “I would definitely do this again.”