In the third year of medical school at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, we enter clinical medicine where we learn and spend most of our time in hospital and general practice placements. After each placement we have a few weeks of teaching of important clinical concepts to enhance our professional knowledge, and sessions on soft skills like communication, empathy, and candour. After my first hospital placement at Homerton University Hospital Foundational Trust where I rotated in general medicine/rheumatology, surgery, and gastroenterology, I returned to medical school in the new year for three weeks of lectures and clinical sessions. One of the sessions that particularly attracted my attention and interest was the BartsX programme developed by the world-class surgeon Professor Shafi Ahmed @Shafiand and his team!
Although, I always had a drive towards the entrepreneurial side of things, I never imagined that a career as doctor could encompass such thing without leaving clinical practice altogether. Contrary to my beliefs, Professor Ahmed, is the embodiment of the career that I want to set myself in, a clinical-academic-entrepreneurial doctor that has no limits on what he can do. Professor Ahmed is such a big innovator who is always ahead of everyone else; this time he introduced the metaverse to Barts medical students as part of the BartsX programme, a programme aimed at third medical students who want to develop their entrepreneurial skills and learn more about the future of medicine like AI and VR. I had never thought of the metaverse from an educational point of view; I had only imagined the metaverse as a platform that can be utilised investments and trading. So, what happened?
On the Friday morning that the metaverse was scheduled, we had all prepared our phones/desktops/VR headsets to join the talk. I didn’t have a VR headset at the time, so joined on my phone through EngageVR, a platform that allows users without needing a headset to create their own/join sessions in the metaverse. EngageVR also works very well with VR headsets as well. I had already set up my avatar from the previous days when Professor Ahmed had emailed us about the opportunity and then joined the session. To my surprise, it worked so well, and it was very immersive even without the headset. It allowed us to raise our hands, move around in the Metaverse space Professor Ahmed had set us up for; and attend a lecture like it is a videogame.
At the beginning of the session before Professor Ahmed, started the talk, he was setting up google slides, the same way he would be doing in a lecture which was surreal. It was also so nice that you could edit the metaverse space you use and add stuff to make it more realistic or more futuristic depending on what you want you want to achieve. Professor Ahmed had put a Mars rover-like object at the centre of the Metaverse space and there was a turbine at a wall. I don’t know if it was done intentionally to symbolise the creation of the future, but it was so cool.
When the lecture started, we were introduced into the current advancements of surgery, how Professor Ahmed was the first surgeon to conduct the first ever surgery using VR and we moved on to medical realities and how it can be used to teach the future generation of doctors including myself, surgery.
The lecture was so immersive and resembled very closely the lectures we had in a normal lecture theatre before the COVID-19 pandemic where we would ask questions and watch the lecture live given by the lecturer. I really loved the experience and the feeling of being one the very first medical schools in the world to have watched live a lecture delivered on the Metaverse by a world class surgeon. It was so easy to use and navigate that I can’t wait to use it in the future esp. in the next talk given by the legendary Professor Ahmed at the Arab Health Conference 2022 on the 24th of January, where he will be delivering a lecture on appendicitis live for medical students across the whole world.
Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart Professor Shafi Ahmed for such an amazing opportunity that you offered to us and that you introduced us to the future!