Dr Sinead Kado develops education leadership models for Pacific

Solomon Island National University has approved a new Post Graduate Diploma in Rural Medicine offered in collaboration with Rocketship and Australian Volunteers International. 

With that in mind, Medical Care Matters journalist David Gilchrist spoke with University of Western Australia’s Medical Education Consultant Dr Sinead Kado to explore education possibilities for health services in Solomon Islands and other Pacific Island countries. 

With over two decades of experience in medical education in the Pacific, Dr Kado’s research provides an insight into the ability of post-graduate education to improve medical education and develop potential health professions education leaders to produce sustainable health and medical education benefits for Pacific Island countries.

Research paves the way for Pacific Education model

Sinead Kado hopes to eventually develop a “Pacific-centric” model for health professions education leadership. She believes through that model, Rocketship might identify which sort of model future Pacific Health educators could utilise and design training models to match that understanding.

She said that Rocketship’s work in post-graduate education could also focus on, health professions leadership also. 

Dr Kado said that a Pacific professional health education leadership model would draw from existing concepts like values-based leadership or adaptive leadership and include local knowledge. 

She said her research in Fiji found that “while we’re quite good at focusing on all the clinical stuff for developing that postgrad clinician, whether it be in family medicine or surgery or whatever, we are not very good at focusing on these other skills that they need to progress or to help succession planning, developing the next generation.”

Dr Kado said that might mean incorporating leadership training into post-graduate education might mean utilising clinical mentors together with mentors from disciplines other than medicine.

Although most of Dr Kado’s research and experience is drawn from her experience in Fiji, there is much in her research that offers insights for Rocketship’s potential involvement in a Solomon Islands Technical Advisory Group.

Dr Kado said, “Whilst many health education leadership models exist, they are based mainly on Western perspectives.” 

“In the Pacific, Health Professions Education (HPE) is emerging and HPE leaders require support and development that is theoretically based within culture and context,” she said.

Dr Kado’s current research uses the combination of a research tool called Rich Pictures and follow-up interviews to investigate HPE leadership in the Pacific context to guide faculty development and to “add a fresh perspective to the international literature.”

Dr Kado explained that Rich Pictures is an investigative tool that disrupts thinking and allows researchers to explore tacit perspectives to explore social, emotional, and cultural aspects of leadership. 

Her research asked participants to draw a picture on ‘Being an HPE leader’, which was followed by a Zoom interview to expand on the participants perspectives about their picture and being an HPE leader.

The Rich Pictures process identified three leadership types and metaphors were assigned to each leadership type. The are the ‘Bridge’, ‘Coconut Tree’ and ‘Drua Canoe’ of HPE leadership. 

While her research showed that all participants had the common aim of developing competent and compassionate graduates, their other aims, strategies, and attributes differed.

Coconut Tree 

The coconut tree model saw leadership as one that provided a variety of experiences which were the fronds, and those experiences were supported by a study base or “trunk” that fed off the “roots” or their graduate education program. That analogy meant some saw Professional Health Education as an avenue to provide multiple leadership roles.

Dua Canoe

Others described leadership as a “Dua Canoe” model which meant seeing leadership as “a vision that can get people on board on a journey that was sometimes long, convoluted, and difficult to navigate and so required focus.”

The Bridge

The third model, “the bridge,” was leadership that helped people bridge the gap between novice and competent. The Bridge involves a leader as a good role model, willing to talk and offer patient-centred care. 

Dr Kado said that her research shows that these models were consistent “regardless of whether they were just a clinical leader or a head of department,” and didn’t change over time.

She said developing a Pacific model of Health Professional Education Leadership would potentially enable Pacific Island countries to channel leaders towards jobs that better reflected their strengths or providing health education that developed appropriate leadership strengths and skills for health education roles.

Language must change

Dr Sinead Kado said that when she met with many Pacific Islanders on a University of Western Australia leadership course, “they said that beyond including leadership training, they would like the language to change.”

She said it was important to change the language used by Australian and New Zealand mentors and trainers from one that talks about mentors and trainers arriving “to help or instruct” to become language centred around collaboration and “journeying together.” “The people in the Pacific,” she said, “are experts in knowing what they want and highly motivated to make change happen.”