Service to Medical Education: teaching undergraduate medical students and postgraduate students, training doctors and other health professions in Australia and globally
Robyn Richmond has been an educator for 38 years and her longstanding service to medical education has led to transformations in public health.
Teaching medical students
Since the early 1980s Robyn Richmond has been actively involved in curriculum development in medical schools on teaching medical students about tobacco control and smoking cessation techniques and on alcohol misuse and interventions to moderate alcohol consumption, as well as training doctors about how to assist smoking patients to quit tobacco use and to control alcohol misuse.
Robyn Richmond’s pioneering research work on the importance of general practitioners in reducing smoking, and their lack of knowledge and training when she commenced work in this area, triggered a commitment to introduce smoking cessation and tobacco education and alcohol misuse into medical schools’ curricula. She surmised that providing teaching about tobacco and alcohol in medical schools would ensure that future doctors are adequately trained to encourage their patients to quit tobacco use and control over consumption of alcohol.
Undergraduate medical school curriculum at UNSW
Teaching on Preventive strategies
When Robyn Richmond commenced teaching at UNSW in the 1980s, there was no teaching at all on prevention initiatives in the undergraduate medical program. In response to this, she initiated and implemented the teaching of preventive strategies for medical students. She commenced by offering medical students optional lunchtime seminars about prevention on a range of public health topics. These became so popular that a teaching stream on prevention was developed and introduced by Robyn into the medical curriculum. Robyn Richmond can be credited with developing teaching curricula on preventive activities and incorporating it into the undergraduate medical program at UNSW. She taught preventive strategies to Years 1 and 2 medical students in the Health Maintenance course at UNSW from the early 1980s until 2016.
During this time as part of her Preventive Strategies teaching, she organised an innovative Health Fest Community Day in which she invited over 30 community organisations to UNSW to display stand and present to the medical students about their community preventive activities, some of which included components and resources from Robyn Richmond’s research. Some of the participating community organisations include: the National Heart Foundation, Cancer Council, Australian Red Cross, Australian Kidney Foundation, Australian Breastfeeding Association, Asthma Foundation, Diabetes Australia, Hepatitis C Council, Mental Health Association Australia, NSW Mental Health and Drug & Alcohol Office and the Fred Hollows Association. Some of these organisations used Robyn Richmond's health resources in their health promotion activities (e.g. Australian Navy).
Teaching on the role of the doctor in smoking and alcohol
For more than 20 years, Robyn Richmond has developed and taught medical students on the role of the doctor in smoking cessation and harmful alcohol consumption. She developed a session for medical students on Motivational Interviewing and the role of the doctor in reducing patients’ risky alcohol use which has sustained for 20 years. Robyn invites alcohol and drug clinicians and researchers working in hospitals and drug and alcohol treatment clinics to participate in the teaching of this program. In this way, they provide rich and interesting examples from their own clinical work and this teaching is popular with medical students.
Introducing public health into clinical disciplines is an innovation in teaching and learning and is a example of significant contribution to medical education.
Designing and teaching in the Health Maintenance course
Robyn Richmond was a member of the Learning Activity Design and Implementation group focussing on designing the Health Maintenance course delivered annually to 570 medical students in years 1 and 2 of the UNSW undergraduate medical course. She was responsible for the introduction of teaching on alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs, and nutrition in the undergraduate medical program. Over 20 years she has made a major contribution to the development of innovative learning and teaching activities in public health topics.
Medical school curricula in medical schools globally
“Most of the world’s more than one billion smokers – about a quarter of all adults – are addicted. Many want to quit, but few get the help they need. Services to treat tobacco dependence are fully available in only nine countries, with 5% of the world’s population. Countries must establish programs providing low-cost, effective interventions for tobacco users who want to escape their addiction“.
Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization, 2008.
For more than 25 years, Robyn Richmond has worked to address the negative effects of tobacco use across the globe through introduction of tobacco curricula in medical schools.
She believes that training future medical practitioners is a powerful tool leading to a reduction of tobacco use and a concomitant improvement in the health of populations. Robyn Richmond’s teaching is based on her research and has been introduced into curricula in medical schools globally. This has involved carrying out a range of public health activities including development and evaluation of uptake of tobacco curricula, identifying and training key people to champion teaching about tobacco, and dissemination of tobacco curricula to medical schools worldwide. She developed a model of implementation of health promotion for different countries and published a paper on her model in Respirology based on her experience working in medical schools in China.
One focus of Robyn Richmond’s global public health work has been to collaborate in joint partnerships to disseminate tobacco curricula and resource materials in low-middle income countries working in collaboration with Professor Harry Lando (Chicago, US) and other members of the Global Network on Health, a group within the Society for Research into Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT). For example:
As part of Robyn Richmond’s program of work for the Tobacco Prevention Section, IUATLD, she was invited to run a workshop on educating medical students at the 27th Global Conference on Lung Health held in Mainz, Germany in 1994. The workshop participants were predominantly academics and respiratory physicians from medical schools in Europe and they discussed successes and barriers encountered when implementing tobacco curricula in medical schools.
Robyn Richmond was invited by the University of Masmara, Turkey and the Turkish Thoracic Society to conduct two workshops in Istanbul in 1996. Both the tobacco curriculum in the handbook for teachers and the resources for students were translated into Turkish, and the Turkish Thoracic Society sponsored the publication of the Turkish version of the handbook. Tobacco curriculum training workshops for Turkish medical school academics were attended by over 100 academics from most of the 37 medical schools across Turkey.
In 1998 Robyn Richmond received a short-term consultancy from the World Health Organization to develop and trial teaching resources for teachers and students in medical schools in China. Robyn Richmond developed and disseminated the tobacco training program in a series of 9 workshops for academics working in medical schools in the north of China (Beijing), and in the south of China (Chan Chung). There were 85 academic doctors from Chinese medical schools who participated in the training workshops and more than 100 medical students attended lectures. Four months after the training workshops, half of the Chinese medical schools said they had introduced Robyn Richmond’s tobacco control curriculum into their medical schools. An important impact of the training program in China was that Shanghai Medical University incorporated the Smokescreen education program into the Year V medical program textbook called Jiankang Jiaoyuxue.
In 2007 Robyn Richmond was asked by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing to run a smoking cessation training course for Chinese medical academic physicians visiting Australia. She developed and ran a 10-day Smokescreen Education Program training course. The participants returned to China to train medical school clinicians and academics.
Robyn Richmond was invited by the IUATLD to conduct a training workshop at the 29th World Conference of the IUATLD and Global Congress on Lung Health in Thailand in 1998. Medical school academics from all over the world attended this workshop which resulted in her medical school curriculum being translated and implemented in medical schools across the globe.
France and Cambodia
A respiratory physician at the Pitie Sal Petrie Hospital in Paris, attended the IUATLD training in Thailand. He presented the Smokescreen Education program to the French Ministry of Health and received support and funding to translate and implement the program across 125 administrative ares and 250 alcohol centres in France and French speaking medical schools in Cambodia.
Robyn Richmond worked with an Iranian physician to translate the tobacco curricula and the accompanying resources into Farsi for Iranian medical schools in. The teaching program was implemented into the Iranian medical course and evaluation showed an almost fourfold from increase in knowledge about tobacco among Iranian medical students.
The Smokescreen Education program, was translated and academics in medical and nursing schools were trained and the program implemented the program into Lao medical schools. 2,242 medical and nursing students were taught about tobacco in 9 out of 11 medical and nursing schools throughout Laos.
Robyn Richmond has worked with other academics in countries around the world advising on translations and dissemination of her tobacco curricula resources such as:
- Academics from Kuwait University who introduced Robyn Richmond’s tobacco curriculum into medical schools across the Arab Gulf States
The process of dissemination into medical schools included training a key person either in a workshop (e.g., for French and Romanian respiratory physicians), or by visiting their country and conducting the training course for academics in local medical schools (e.g., in Turkey, Thailand, China and Germany), or training the medical school academics in Australia (e.g., from Japan, Laos and Malaysia). The tobacco curriculum has been introduced into many medical schools across the globe. The stages of this public health initiative consist of a needs assessment through to resource development, training, dissemination, evaluation and revision.
This service to medical education shows sustained global impact of Robyn Richmond’s tobacco control work in medical schools.
China, Indonesia, India and Bangladesh
In December 2011, Deans and Professors from medical and nursing schools from Bangladesh, China, India and Indonesia were invited to a 3-day workshop in Singapore where they were trained in smoking cessation medical curricula by Professor Robyn Richmond, Professor Harry Lando (USA) and colleagues from the International Union who organised this workshop. Please click here for more information.
Robyn Richmond has developed six courses in the Master of Public Health (MPH) program at UNSW including: Research Skills in Public Health, Applied Epidemiology, International Tobacco Control, Centenarian Health and Lifestyles, Vulnerable People in Kenya and Tobacco, Alcohol and Illicit Drugs. She regularly supervises students for small and medium sized research projects and develops their capacity as independent researchers.
Tobacco, Alcohol and Illicit Drugs course
In 2010 Robyn Richmond expanded her Tobacco Control course from a 3 credit unit course to a 6 credit unit course called: Tobacco, Alcohol and Illicit Drugs. She designed, coordinates and teaches this course in the Master of Public Health (MPH) program and includes numerous innovative teaching methods which are highly rated by the students. Course materials are evidence based and linked to the latest research. This course is popular among doctors, nurses and psychologists and both local and international students participate. Comments from students include:
- Her teaching sessions are so interactive that I have not seen such a hardworking professor like her, in all the seminars, her participation made every seminar even more informative. And especially when she asks us to apply it to our home country.
- All her course is mind blowing.
- She was very helpful in regards to providing material and resources and information.
- She has a very well structured way of teaching.
- She encourages critical thinking as well as independent learning with many learning activities.
- She has complete trust in her students and provided a lot of helpful material.
- Her lectures are very exciting.
- She has very sound knowledge into the course and the field in general, engaged students to think and encouraged participation.
Research Skills in Public Health course
Previously, she developed and ran a core MPH course, Research Skills in Public Health. As part of this course, students were attached to various public health research projects in the community which afforded them practical and hands on experience of public health research and encouraged them to pursue research in public health areas. This was a seminal course which has developed into other courses in the MPH program.
Health Needs of Vulnerable People Living in an Internally Displaced Persons’ Camps in Kenya
In 2012 and 2013, Robyn Richmond developed with Associate Professor Heather Worth a unique offering within the UNSW Public Health masters program which offered the opportunity for overseas data collection. Students spent 1-2 weeks in Kenya where they collected data on the health needs of people living in Internally Displaced Persons’ Camps. This innovative project offered students a chance to observe and participate in a major public health activity in a resource poor country. It provided a rich learning experience where students gained experience in a range of research methods including the complexities of conducting research in a resource poor setting.
Supervision of postgraduate coursework research students
Professor Robyn Richmond regularly supervises postgraduate coursework students in small and medium sized research projects, in addition to PhD students. She has supervised many students as part of her various research projects in general practice, smoking among prisoners and ex-prisoners, smoking among those with a mental illness, centenarians, and research in Kenya and Uganda. This type of supervision is a capacity building exercise and enables students to pursue further higher research degrees.