We asked Mark Ranasinghe and Shiva Sridhar, both medical students at Monash University, to tell us about their experiences of attending a Survivors Teaching Students (STS) session.
Survivors Teaching Students® is a volunteer program that brings the faces and voices of ovarian cancer survivors and caregivers into the classrooms of health professional students to teach them about women’s experiences with the disease.
One of the most memorable experiences of my Women’s Health rotation was the Survivors Teaching Students session. The raw emotion and tear-jerking insight shared from the women about their journey with ovarian cancer connected with me in such a unique way. Epidemiology forms an essential part of our learning about a particular disease, but relating the numbers to human faces through this experience really put the symptoms, outcomes and treatments into perspective.
It was great experiencing this prior to finding myself in gynaecological clinics and theatres. I felt more able to empathise with what women of all walks of life came in with. I had this greater appreciation for celebrating the highs and empathising with the lows. Sitting in silence when the gynaecologist conveyed bad news felt heavier, but I was glad I felt this way. It also impacted on the short chat I’d have with women in the anaesthetic bay before surgery; I could better appreciate this mix of enthusiasm for the big day and anxiety for the outcome they would talk about.
Ultimately, I’m very privileged to have experienced the session. It was refreshing to hear the sound of silence move through the room when the women were speaking – it gives me confidence that my peers would have shared a similar experience. Thank you to the STS women for allowing us into this special part of their lives.
Insight – what we learn through textbooks and lectures can never truly capture the essence of the illness experience and hearing from the women themselves provided great insight into how this disease affected their day to day life.
Knowledge – each woman’s story was filled with learning points, whether it was the recognition of their symptoms, their relationship with their medical team or their experience with their treatment, which helped add to our limited knowledge.
Empathy – the STS program enabled me to appreciate the nuances of every woman’s story and will continue to serve as a reminder that my patient is so much more complex than the half page note detailing their medical history.
I want to thank all the brave women who shared their incredible stories and assure you that the positive impact you have had on myself and my colleagues will continue to shape our careers and influence how we provide care.
There are currently 100+ trained STS volunteers working in several states across Australia, but we are always on the lookout for more dedicated volunteers to help save women’s lives through helping to deliver this program. If you’re interested in finding out more or want to join ANZGOG’s Survivors Teaching Students program, visit the STS webpage or contact Elise Ackland.