National Teaching Fellow 2008
Val Wass is a General Practitioner. She became determined to change medical education 20 years ago while working with patients in kidney failure at a large teaching hospital. She realised that the all important impact of disease on the lives of patients and families was being overlooked in a doctor (rather than patient) centred environment. She has since worked to introduce a more holistic approach to medical student learning developing an increased focus on primary care, patient centred communication, professionalism and cultural awareness.
Increasingly medical students are learning in the community alongside traditional teaching hospital attachments. She was appointed as Professor of Community Based Medical Education to the University of Manchester in 2003 after completing an International Masters in Health Professional Education in Maastricht. Her work has also harnessed the importance of designing assessments to drive learning and ensure appropriate educational impact. Her PhD on assessing clinical competence
was awarded the rare Dutch accolade of “cum laude”.
Her approach is valued by her students, who recognise the importance of seeing patients in their home environment. One first year student said:
“It showed me that being a bookworm won’t make a brilliant doctor. Practising medicine is an art and when dealing with it we need to be armed with tools such as empathy and compassion and a genuine interest in the patient.”
Val’s medical education research has resulted in an international reputation and work with the Royal College of General Practitioners to support Family Medicine in the Third World (particularly South Asia) where more community based health care is urgently needed. Increasing migration and diversity of both patients and doctors present further challenges. Her work continues to support these changes and ensure the medical workforce in the 21 century has appropriate culturally sensitive professional skills.
As pointed out by one of Val’s students:
“It is important to remember in all patients that you cannot (and should not) try to divorce disease from the patient and the impact it has on their life.”
Head of School of Medicine, Professor of Medical Education
University of Keele