Undergraduate students from ACU travelled to Rome in January to undertake units HLSC220 Health Care Ethics and HLSC120 Society, Culture and Health in intensive mode. This group of pioneering students from the Faculty of Health Sciences arrived on the newly-acquired European campus in the middle of a sunny, Roman winter.
The Rome campus is located on Janiculum Hill in the charming, medieval Trastevere region on the west bank of the Tiber River. It is within walking distance of the Spanish Embassy, the Vatican and the Castel Sant’Angelo. The campus itself provides a small, friendly space in which students can live, attend class, socialise and study. The days were ordered by both in-class schedules and the rhythm of Italian meal times. Weekends were free from formal study and students took advantage of this break to travel to other cities of Italy, with Florence, Vienna and Pompeii being the more popular locations. Some students took advantage of their close proximity to other European cities, travelling to Amsterdam and Paris.
Community engagement activities were organised from the Rome campus and included outings to a range of volunteer health and welfare services administered and operated by the lay, Catholic community of Sant’Egidio. At the same time, students were made aware of the difficulties faced by asylum seekers in Rome, particularly in regard to access to Italian health care services.
Students also had an opportunity to attend the weekly Papal address at the Vatican, as well as to visit the Vatican museums, the Sistine Chapel, St Peters Basilica, the Colosseum and the Pantheon. Generally, students were able to engage with the fascinating history and cultures of both ancient and Christian Rome.
Visitors to the campus included the Australian ambassador to the Vatican, Mr John McCarthy QC, who spoke about the problem of human trafficking and slavery. Fr Frank Brennan SJ also met with the students. As author of a chapter in the unit text book, Fr Brennan’s attendance at lunch was most appreciated.
The students were also interested in a talk given by the Monsignor Jean-Marie Mate Musivi Mpendawatu from the Vatican’s Department of Health and Welfare. As a delegate to the World Health Organization, the Monsignor spoke of the need for western health care systems to move away from the increasingly expensive medical model of health care to the kinds of prevention and rehabilitation work offered by the allied health professions. The Monsignor praised ACU as a "university of the future" for its avoidance of offering degrees in medicine and focusing, instead, on alternative approaches to promoting human health.
Overall, teaching HLSC220 and HLSC120 in intensive mode offers residential students a unique experience in which immersion in the subject content is far greater than what is possible over the course of a full semester. This became evident during the in-class debate assessments in HLSC220 which proved of an exceptional standard in both their execution and as a learning tool; and in HLSC120 the data produced by students when given the opportunity to undertake structured observations of health-related issues for their assessment. Importantly, the Roman setting created a unique environment in which friendships were founded and creative educational opportunities were made possible.