THIS week students started back at universities across Scotland. As a clinical lecturer myself, I must admit I was feeling a bit apprehensive about how remote teaching for medicine would work out but have been left pleasantly surprised.

Medicine, especially, is a vocation centred around people. We, at Glasgow University, are proud to offer our students early access to meet and work with both simulated and real patients and of course the whole curriculum is designed to work in groups learning how to problem solve, work as a team and lead; skills essential to becoming a doctor.

I felt sad that I wouldn’t get to have that face to face experience of teaching that I would normally have with my students. Nothing beats real life contact. While many students will have already had some online experience, I was welcoming first year students this week. I wondered how they were feeling.

My other source of mild anxiety was learning to navigate a new online way of delivering content. We teach our students about communication skills very early on at Glasgow University, learning to take effective histories from patients, observing the subtleties of non-verbal communication to pick up important cues that may lead to uncovering the diagnosis. How would I deliver this in a meaningful way over zoom?

Thankfully, the teams at the faculty have been working tirelessly over the summer to make this experience as “real” as possible.

Although I was feeling quite frazzled after the hours of figuring out log-in details, setting up meetings, organising virtual breakout rooms and presentations that would simplify things for our new students, I logged in for my first meeting.

I remember my first week of term as a first year student at Glasgow Uni back in 2001. Having just finished school, feeling overwhelmed but super excited, I met my lifelong friends that week. That buzz that comes from mingling and networking and feeling inspired is a milestone in itself. I fully expected my first session to be full of chat from my students feeling despondent but they surprised me.

I asked about how they were feeling and whether they felt they were missing out and one said, “well, no because we have nothing to compare it to”.

I realised in that moment that we often project our own thoughts and ideas on to others and perhaps feed into a narrative that is more commonly spoken of instead of asking to listen and welcome new perceptions. It was refreshing. We went round and introduced ourselves.

I learned that most of my students were logged in from abroad from as far as Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuwait, Saudi and Poland to more locally in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

I couldn’t have asked for a more diversely rich group. This was the most exciting session I’d ever taught.

One student showed us the view from their room in Hong Kong whilst another talked about their life in Singapore. We were all in different time zones, different climates, and different circumstances but mutually connected through a global pandemic and a mutual passion and love for medicine. This was going to work.

The rest of the session moved on – with a few technical glitches mind you – but it worked out just fine.

Unfortunately there has been a significant outbreak of Covid cases across universities, including Glasgow University, and this was to be expected however every effort and measure is being taken to try and minimise further cases.

I urge students who are new to the campus to follow the rules and guidance.

While we continue to live through these unprecedented times, we must remember that it is not going to be like this forever.

I too look forward to a time where we can all mingle together and enjoy social interactions again but for now, we have to go through this challenging phase, all do our bit to keep ourselves and each other safe, so that we can collectively reap the benefits soon.

With all the hard work from students and tutors alike, I have no doubt that this will be a term

to remember.