CEXS-UPF: Interview with Joaquim Gea: "Our students will be highly competitive and I am sure we will reap the fruits of everyone's efforts"

CEXS-UPF: Interview with Joaquim Gea: "Our students will be highly competitive and I am sure we will reap the fruits of everyone's efforts"

News from CEXS-UPF

Joaquim Gea is a professor of physiology in the UPF Department of Experimental and Health Sciences (CEXS) and the current dean of the university's Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, a school that this year will see its first graduating class in medicine (UPF-UAB). It is also one of the three institutions now housed in the recently renovated Dr Aiguader building on the university's Mar Campus. On 10 June, the building hosted the ceremony marking the completion of the remodelling work.

- Recently, the ceremony marking the completion of the renovation of the teaching building on the university's Mar Campus was held. What benefits do you expect to see from the housing of three institutions (UPF, UAB, and the Mar Health Park) in a single space?

It is a unique situation that will allow us to share the complementary cultures and experiences of the different institutions. Moreover, the mix of students from different bachelor's degree programmes will be quite enriching and will help to prepare them to work together in future, whether in healthcare, research or teaching. Finally, having a hospital (Hospital del Mar) and a research centre (the PRBB) just metres from the Faculty offers us a singular opportunity to integrate all of these activities smoothly and coherently.

- How does sharing facilities affect the quality of the teaching?

The truth is that it poses a challenge in terms of space constraints; however, it is also an opportunity to seek out synergies and cultivate shared cultures. Currently, undergraduate degrees in biomedicine have to be taught from a multidisciplinary perspective, in which lecturers with different academic backgrounds encourage students to pursue different degrees.

'The mix of students from various bachelor's programmes is quite enriching and will help to prepare them to work together in the future, whether in healthcare, research or teaching'

- Medical programmes were a historical demand at UPF. Looking back, how would you assess everything that has been achieved?

I sincerely believe that, along with our colleagues at UAB, we have created a high-level medical programme. This can be seen both in the body of knowledge mastered by our students (not only in clinical disciplines, but also in the more basic ones) and in the skills they acquire, whether strictly biomedical or cross-disciplinary (bibliographic searches, teamwork, oral and poster presentations, etc.).

- This year will see the first graduating class in medicine. What does that represent for UPF and the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences?

I think it's a milestone for UPF, as medical programmes have traditionally been one of the flagships of a university's offerings. In this case, the accomplishment is twofold, as so much work was required just to launch the programme in the first place. As for the Faculty, it is an opportunity to go back to the original idea, which was very innovative: to allow students from different biomedical science programmes (human biology, medicine, biomedical engineering and nursing) to study together and share experiences that will be quite useful to them should they eventually work together in future.

- Is teaching in the field of medicine particularly complex due to the social responsibility intrinsic to the profession?

We certainly have less freedom with regard to teaching than in other programmes. We have to ensure that our students are fully prepared to start practicing as general practitioners when they graduate, while at the same time providing them with the tools they need to perform well on the MIR, as that score will greatly condition their future career. Nor must we forget our 'personal touch' at UPF: a good humanistic education, in basic sciences and cross-cutting skills, along with an introduction to biomedical research, which makes our graduates highly desirable for our health system. As for medical research, the final project for the degree programme is modelled on the learning involved in the master's programme, as graduates in medicine are automatically certified as having attained that academic level, too. Only two universities in Spain have opted for this model, which places considerable emphasis on research in the field of health at the undergraduate level.

- What sets UPF graduates apart from graduates of other schools?

In addition to the more generic aspects of their training, which we try to provide at the highest possible level, we aim to train future physicians in cross-cutting skills and the tools of basic science, as that is what will ultimately set them apart and place them at the top of the professional pyramid. At the same time, we take particular care to ensure that we don't neglect the humanistic and ethical aspects of the medical profession. We hope that this approach will allow our Faculty's graduates to stand out in future at the institutions in which they work.

Full Interview