News nr. 24 | November/December 2011
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Interview with the Deputy Director of FMUL
Interview with the Deputy Director of FMUL

Optimism in the capacity building of FMUL 

In an interview, Professor Miguel Castanho, deputy director of FMUL since September 2011, shared his ideas and vision for the future of FMUL in the face of multiple challenges: the Egas Moniz Building, The Câmara Pestana Institute (under construction), and the consolidation of research and integrated teaching.  

Newsletter: - How do you see your mission as recently appointed deputy director?  
Prof. M. Castanho: Occupying a position in a management team is a considerable overload and responsibility, but it is also the opportunity that each of us has to contribute effectively to the progress of the institutions. One cannot be active, responsible and creative if we do not accept these responsibilities which are equally chances to work actively for the future. 
Newsletter:  - And in what direction do you want to work? 
Prof. M. Castanho: I intend to work actively with the director of FMUL to deepen integrated education, because that makes the difference between being in the forefront of modernity and clinging to an outdated education system. A modest exercise of benchmarking shows that the best medical schools in the world have taken that path for some time. FMUL may proudly state that it was the first medical school in Portugal to make a syllabus change towards integration. 

There are studies published in medical education journals that indicate adaptation periods of about 5 years in curricular transitions of this type. This is what is happening in FMUL: five years of curricular reform have passed, with excellent indicators, and we must pursue this task. I am a member of the Education Committee of the Federation of European Biochemical Societies and I follow up what is happening in many other universities due to the alignment of curricula of Biochemistry to integrated education. 

Linking research to teaching and the blurring of the dichotomy between preclinical versus clinical is also part of my concerns. The teaching should benefit from the scientific environment experienced at FMUL, in the same way that research benefits from the entire education and educational support structure. Investment in the cohesion of both is paramount. 

Newsletter: - And what will investment in that cohesion involve?
Prof. M. Castanho: Ensuring the simultaneous sustainability of research and teaching activities in a balanced way in the context of available human, financial and material resources. It will also involve fostering everything that tends to combine research and teaching, and fighting off dichotomies between both sets of activities! To this end, supporting clinical research is vital. It is important for a modern medical degree to welcome innovation and research as an integral part. 

The new Câmara Pestana building is an example of a good investment: with no construction costs for FMUL (work paid for with funds from PIDDAC, responsibility of the UL), it will enable new and better areas of education, as well as new research areas which will strengthen FMUL as a leading institution in medical innovation, both in terms of teaching and of research. 

It is also essential to ensure a good relationship with HSM – CHLN, in the context of the Academic Medical Centre of Lisbon (CAML), because Clinical Medicine of excellence is vital to teaching and is also an expression of modernity and of capacity of incorporating research and therapeutic innovation. These are the main areas where the Board I form part of wish to invest in. It is essential to move on, for which reason the strengthening of the Academic Centre is a priority. 

At another level, I highlight FMULS’ support for pedagogical initiation and scientific research internships, particularly GAPIC, which is an example of initiatives that make FMUL one of the most innovative faculties at international level in terms of merging teaching and research. That was evident at an international meeting held in 2010 in Sweden where this topic was discussed and the experience of GAPIC was disseminated. Whoever wishes may consult the publication “The teaching, learning and researching triangle in Academia” that I have co-edited recently and which provides examples of several successful initiatives in various countries, including our GAPIC. 

Newsletter: - Speaking of the new Câmara Pestana building, can you predict when it will be finished and how functional it will be?  

Prof. M. Castanho: The aim is that the entire structure of the building will be ready at the end of 2012. From then onwards, FMUL will have to bear the costs of filling the building. The construction funds do not burden FMUL but apply solely to the property itself. This means that FMUL will equip the building as soon as possible but in accordance to its possibilities. The educational and administrative areas will cost less and in principle will be ready faster. The research areas will be set up differentially and according to our fund raising possibilities. Let us be optimistic and confident in what we will be able to achieve collectively as FMUL.

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Prof. Doutor J. Fernandes e Fernandes
Editorial Commitee: Prof. Doutor J. Fernandes e Fernandes, Prof. Doutor Alexandre Ribeiro, Prof. Doutor António Vaz Carneiro, Prof. Doutor João Ferreira, Dr. Luis Pereira
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