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Bridging the university and profession gap

The role of coordinator in this pathology course is enormous and there is never enough time. The unit has multiple components and is difficult but the students love it because everything taught is placed in a clinical context. Organising and preparing well before classes start is helpful in coping. More...

This is my eighth year as Unit Coordinator of a pathology course for students from diverse backgrounds including Medical Science, Science, Advanced Science, Engineering and Health and Exercise Science programs. The role is enormous and there is never enough time. The unit has multiple components and involves organising lectures, tutorials practical classes, and off-site visits. I also invite world class research scientists and clinicians into classes to share with students their first hand experiences. These are powerful mechanisms to bring potential future employers and employees face to face and assist students to reflect about their career opportunities.

Fitting into timetables of visiting professionals and host institutes for the off-site visits is logistically hard. This unit is designed to make university training relevant to future professional career in Clinical medicine biomedical research, biomedical and tissue engineering, biotechnology and allied health. Although difficult to coordinate, the students love it because everything we teach is practical and is placed in a clinical context. Many say it has been one of their best experiences at the university. I hope that, in the future, clinical placements for non-medical pathology students will be integrated to the curriculum and a dedicated convenor is appointed to perform this enormous task. This kind of stream lining would make a better use of time that ensures the best student experience possible.

In addition to extensive undergraduate teaching commitments, I also supervise a number of post graduate research students, lead concurrent National Health and Medical Research Council grants and contribute to the profession as a member of various committees and professional bodies. I have not taken a holiday in more than 10 years. I have a young family and am unsure how sustainable my workload is going to be if it continues at this level. My Head of Department and School are highly supportive. They do their best to assist me find a balance between my teaching and research commitments.

I advise new clinical Unit Coordinators to carefully manage their time and commence their preparation as early as possible. Writing a unit of study early enables design, reflection and redesign if unhappy with earlier versions. New coordinators also need to organise themselves and their contacts to help manoeuvre around timetable clashes. I would advise them not to be afraid to try things and, although initiatives may not work, not to take things personally. Changes can be made before their next delivery.

If I were starting again I would negotiate the allocation of my time for research, teaching and administration more seriously. Much of our work uses our goodwill and is at our expense. I would like to get the balance right and be able to really enjoy my students. I find the response and rewards from teaching are more instantaneous than from research, which may take months or years to achieve.

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