Scottish psychiatrist leads on addiction conversation cafes

A Scottish addictions psychiatrist has been running conversation cafes with medical students and people with lived experience – to change beliefs about addiction and recovery.

The project run in partnership with the University of Dundee Medical School was the idea of newly qualified doctor, Dr Hugo Jobst and senior addictions worker, Allan Houston.  

Dr Seonaid Anderson - who is vice-chair of the Addictions Faculty at RCPsych in Scotland - started working with Hugo and Allan over a year ago. 

The aim was to replace planned tutorials with conversation cafes so medical students could hear about harm reduction, community resources, the predisposing factors and the individual value of recovery told by the people with lived experience themselves.

Feedback at the end of the Conversation Cafes revealed 89% of students felt the sessions were useful and 100% said people with lived experience should be involved in undergraduate teaching, while 85% stated the sessions had changed their beliefs about addiction and recovery.

Dr Seonaid Anderson who is also an Honorary Lecturer at the University of Dundee, said:

“I was asked to deliver two small-group tutorials on alcohol dependence to third year medical students.  Having delivered a whole year-group lecture about this topic, I was aware that the students already knew the facts about addiction.

“We were fortunate to receive some funding from the Medical Council on Alcohol Undergraduate Education Committee, which was used to buy refreshments.  Having plates of biscuits, tea and coffee available made the sessions more informal which helped people feel comfortable to speak freely. 

“I’m delighted the University of Dundee medical school has now incorporated Conversation Cafes into the undergraduate curriculum for all third-year medical students and we’re in the midst of running the cafes at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee. 

“I’m looking forward to evaluating the impact of this unique learning experience and would encourage all medical schools to roll Conversation Cafes out across their curricula.  Hugo and I would be very happy to offer support, advice and facilitator training so that this valuable learning can be offered to all medical students in the UK.”

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