When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in the Spring of 2020, the University of Health Sciences Antigua was forced to pivot and make a slate of changes, including moving its academic courses online. Now that the pandemic is becoming endemic, the University has decided to embrace and keep some of those changes for the long haul.
Other innovations have been abandoned, having been deemed no longer needed. When the University’s students return to campus this fall, they will find both an institution and a campus that has been transformed.
Accessible education, both online and in-person
Responding to the difficulties of the pandemic, the University moved many courses online and established a new online premedical sciences program that prepares high-school graduates for medical school. In addition, faculty quickly adapted to teach remotely, incorporating best practices for online pedagogy. The University also invested more in electronic journals and digitizing its library.
Since the school has many international students, demand for this format has remained high, so the University will continue to offer these courses online this fall.
“Students appreciate not traveling to Antigua for a review course,” said Dr. Adedayo Akande, the University’s President. “It just makes things a lot easier and a lot more efficient. We also found the performance of our students has either been the same, or else improved, so we didn’t sacrifice anything by going this route.”
The University will also offer its Doctor of Medicine program in a traditional, in-person format for students who want to come to campus. In addition, some courses that did not translate well into the online environment, such as specific introductory science courses in the University’s medical school, will be resumed.
“We couldn’t have certain research programs, including our standardized patient unit program, in which students interact with community members,” Dr. Akande said. “There are many parts outside of classroom work that is key in medical school but does not work online. Now that students can return to campus, our programs will be as they were, allowing interaction among people.”
A new sense of place
In October, the University will welcome students back to a newly-renovated campus that encourages community as well as concentrated study. Originally a tracking station for NASA, the University’s buildings date back to the 1960s. When the pandemic emptied out classrooms and hallways, the University seized the opportunity to modernize.
“This was a good time for us to repaint the entire campus,” Dr. Akande said. “We ripped up old carpeting and tiles, and just improved everything. We renovated our registrars’ office and built new faculty offices.”
Considering the heat that Caribbean islands like Antigua can experience, the most pivotal renovation may be Central Air, which was implemented throughout the University’s buildings.
Dr. Akande’s favorite renovations are located in the library, which he described as “completely transformed.” Once a single large space, it now contains numerous study nooks and rooms for small-group meetings. The new cafeteria, which now contains a lounge area, is also anticipated to attract students and foster community and collaboration.
“Everything looks more hospitable now,” Dr. Akande said. “Our new spaces are very professional, comfortable, and conducive to studying. I think our students will be really happy once they return to campus. The faculty and staff love it. They’ve seen the work that has gone into it, and they’re very proud of it.”
An elite, forward-looking education
The University also anticipates offering new learning opportunities in 2023. For example, in partnership with Revive Therapeutics, a life-sciences company based in Canada, students will conduct research on psilocybin-assisted therapy to help patients recover from alcohol addiction.
“Our goal is to establish and implement a curriculum for psychedelic-assisted therapy,” Dr. Akande explained. “We want to offer formal educational programs in our medical school’s Doctor of Medicine program so that our medical students can gain experience administering psilocybin for the benefit of patients.”
In the process, the University of Health Sciences Antigua will take its place on the cutting-edge research into these promising treatments.