Virtual Meeting Platform: Towards more Societal Engagement & Inclusion in Medical Practices

Virtual Place


Start: 16.05.2023
End: 16.05.2023


GIGA , Inclusion Health Research Group , One Health

The program consists of two parts. Each part followed this structure: Each invited speaker shortly introduces his or herself and briefly shares the topic she/he wants to elaborate on in the round table discussion. Then the round table discussion starts.

Guiding questions:

  • How does engagement of society and their communities ideally look like?
  • What (innovative) practices can be shared/elaborated on?
  • How do you encourage this approach internally for colleagues to follow?
  • What obstacles/barriers are encountered when doing that?
  • What would you like to learn from one of the other UNIC medical faculties?

Total participants: 38 Total students: 7 Total Staff members: 28 Total representatives of societal stakeholders: 3

The diversity of Rotterdam and many other cities is an essential element that needs to be taken into consideration in future health practices. In Rotterdam alone in 2023 more than 54% of the population comes from an immigrant background. Doctors and health practitioners are not only dealing with the diseases but with the whole complexity of the patient (economic background, financial and health literacy). Students of medical facilities represent the keys to bringing into the curriculum issues like economic inequalities, low health literacy, and others. The topic of the first part of the VMP was ‘Engaged Education & Research’. The floor was first given to the students from the Erasmus MC student association ‘GIDS’, who opened the event by speaking about ‘Stepping out of the ivory towers’ and how to make societal impact as a healthcare student. After that, Angela Flynn from the University of Cork spoke about inclusion in the field of health, and inclusion in health research. Then, an interesting discussion among speakers and participants followed. Erasmus MC student Natalie raised the question: Why should these (minority) groups want to be engaged in research? What’s their benefit? She also pointed out that we shouldn’t use difficult terminology when involving them and speaking to them, but really engage with them. It’s a process that takes years to develop. Relationships and trust need to be built. One of the participants, Charles Boelen, mentioned the problems that exist concerning the relationship of the academic world and society. And that the world of students during their study is very different from the (real) world they step into after their studies. Therefore, during the study they should learn competences and skills that they can use in the ‘real world’ and in society. It seems that nowadays, this gap between two different worlds is too large. Mary Cronin mentions that engaging these groups should be done in the form of a dialogue. And it would help if we took concrete actions about how to involve their issues and priority needs on the agenda. Sometimes we cannot meet there needs, but the least what we can do is listen.

Participants and speakers continued to speak about how to get these groups of people interested in participating in research. Sam Riedijk (EMC) gave an example of a group of women in the Amazon who were asked to participate in research, and that the researchers wanted to do something for them in return. The women answered they would be happy to receive a course in Excel, in return for their participation in the research. This shows that we can offer the people that we want to include in our research something in return, that does not necessarily have to be related to the research (and perhaps the related policy or societal problems involved). But we could ask them how we can do something in return. We can teach this type of practice to our students. After a short break, speakers Nikki Jansen and Gert Jan Verboom (Dona Daria, NGO in Rotterdam) opened the second part: How to reach and include specific groups? They first gave an introduction about the work that they do in Rotterdam and on a European level and how they make efforts to include specific groups, like LGBTQ+ and women with a migration background for example. Then, Georgios (University of Bochum) spoke about his work which is about engaging LGBTQ+ groups in health and health research. Then Kemal Kuscu, an academic from Koc University, spoke about how he involves minority groups like elderly, mentally disabled people for example. The next speaker, Sam Riedijk (EMC), spoke about the new research master programme of EMC: ‘Genomics in Society’. One of their courses is called Genomics and the City, which is a design thinking based course, where students learn how to identify issues, consult and reach stakeholders, and how to think of possible solutions. She pointed out that long term relationships with representatives of society are very important. These participants not necessarily have academic interests. NGOs (like Dona Daria) are valuable organizations that stand in between universities, research and governmental institutions and the societal groups and communities that we are trying to reach. They can function as gate keepers or gate openers. It’s smart to use these type of NGOs to reach our target audience. Specific groups would be more likely to engage in research when they are being approached by an NGO or local organization then by people coming from university of government. Mary Cronin (University College Cork) also pointed out the importance of building longterm relationships and trust.

We rounded up the VMP by various speakers and participants to share their experience in how to reach and include specific groups. It seems there are many similarities in the issues that universities/cities face. Narrator Samira Abbadi ended the VMP by mentioning that the contact list of participants and speakers will be shared, and encouraged everyone to connect to each other, and that we will make efforts to further develop this VMP in further actions within UNIC.


UNIC CityLabs


Health & Wellbeing | HEI Development

Type of Case




Organizing unic universities

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