Members of University Health Network’s Medical Education team, (L to R), Tim Tripp, Shirlene Eliathamby, Anne Marie Holmes and Babita Jadobeer, in the library of the new Education Centre at Toronto Western Hospital. (Photo: UHN)
Since the start of the pandemic, learners at UHN have had to do without so many of the standard resources that we used to take for granted: in-person learning, face-to-face discussions with peers and common spaces where they can learn, study and even unwind.
As routines slowly get back to normal, some of these things will return to the way they were, while others have changed for the better. On Tuesday, February 22, the new Education Centre at Toronto Western Hospital officially opens, giving learners a safe space to study, hone their clinical skills and decompress.
Vrati Mehra, a second-year medical student at the University of Toronto, understands the value of an education space where she can practice her clinical skills with all the tools and technology she needs.
“Because of COVID, I haven’t had access to many spaces like this since I started medical school,” Vrati says. “This centre means a lot to me.”
The Education Centre is the first dedicated and shared learning space at UHN designed for all clinical learners, including medical students, nursing students, speech-language pathology students and many more.
“The previous medical education centre for Toronto Western was across the street from the hospital, which kept learners apart,” says Tim Tripp, Director of Library and Information Services at UHN, and a key member of the Education Centre planning team.
“Bringing them back to one space is amazing.”
With Toronto Western as one of the anchor hospitals for the Wightman-Berris Academy of Medicine, a network of hospitals and clinics that deliver parts of the clinical curriculum of the University of Toronto’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine, the new centre gives undergraduate medical students a home base at the hospital with state-of-the-art facilities to support them through all four years of their training.
“We’re delighted to offer this valuable resource to our learners,” says Dr. Andrea Page, Director of the Wightman-Berris Academy. “And we’re excited for the role the centre will play in the education of future physicians.”
‘Sends a message to everyone…that UHN values education’
The new centre is located on the third floor of the West Wing at Toronto Western, and includes a library, seminar rooms, exam rooms with clinical equipment, a computer lab and a learner lounge.
“It’s a very comfortable space, and what’s important is that some of the learners here will eventually become UHN staff, so we’re connecting them to this Education Centre early,” Tim says.
“They’ll always know that they can come to the centre and that we’re here to help.”
For Vrati, the centre lets her connect with others safely in a way that hasn’t been possible for the last two years.
“I use the space primarily for clinical training sessions with my classmates, and we’re just steps away from real patients and physicians,” she says.
The centre has also become a model for other education sites at UHN, and a similar space at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre is now under construction, with plans to open this fall.
“We can learn from some of the lessons we took away from the Toronto Western centre,” says Tim. “We have lots of ideas.”
The Toronto Western Education Centre’s virtual grand opening takes place as UHN launches its annual Teaching and Learning Week – an opportunity to celebrate education across UHN. Using the Education Centre as a kick-off for the week shows the benefit of education that happens both inside and outside the classroom, and how the spaces we design can encourage constant learning.
Vrati appreciates the significance of having spaces dedicated to healthcare education.
“Could I learn the same things in a traditional classroom? Yes, of course,” she says. “But when I walk into this space, I feel welcomed as a medical trainee. It reminds me of my purpose and gives me a glimpse of what my future holds.
“Creating a centre like this sends a message to everyone in the hospitals, including students, that UHN values education.”
Teaching and Learning Week is an annual event for all UHN. This year the week runs from February 22 to 25.
We are very grateful for the generous support of Gilad Abrahami and the late Gabi Weisfeld for their support of part of the Toronto Western Hospital Education Centre project.