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The Selwyn Scholarship

Students’ perspective on spirituality and healthcare

The Selwyn Scholarship was established in 2010 with the purpose of supporting postgraduate research related to the influence of spirituality in the ageing well process. Each year we look for up and coming young scientists and healthcare professionals to support them in their quest to answer those questions yet unanswered, or to find solutions to the challenges facing older people.

2017 Selwyn Scholar - Mary Cane Demecillo
University of Otago medical student Mary Cane Demecillo is the recipient of this year’s Selwyn Institute Scholarship. 

Her research project, titled Otago medical students’ perspectives on spirituality and its role in health care, will be undertaken as part of a Bachelor of Medical Science (Hons) degree which she has taken a year out of her main MbChB qualification to do.

Her focus, based on information that will be gleaned from interviews of new and graduating medical students at the Otago campus, will potentially have implications for curriculum development and how spirituality is actually being taught.    

“Despite the importance of spiritual care as reported in recent literature,” she says, “the subject receives little attention in the curriculum of New Zealand medical schools.”

“My objective is to understand the perspectives that new and graduating medical students have personally and in the context of health care.  The information collected may then be used to help guide curriculum development and medical educators in spiritual care teaching.”

A further ‘by product’ of her study is to gain a more specific and targeted understanding of what role spirituality might play in the lives of young adults.

Philippine-born Mary Cane migrated to New Zealand with her family at age 10 and began her studies at Otago University in 2015. Her research project will be based within the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine and will be supervised by Dr. Richard Egan and Dr. Hamish Wilson. The department has been involved in multiple projects in the field of spirituality, many of which Dr. Egan has co-authored. Dr. Wilson has extensive experience in research focusing on medical students as well as holistic care.

In awarding the scholarship Selwyn Institute director Hilda Johnson-Bogaerts says Mary Cane’s project will add another dimension of engagement and understanding of the important spirituality plays in a person’s life and wellbeing.

“Gathering information from a cross section of people at the beginning, and then end, of their medical studies will provide insights into how the subject matter is integrated as part of a robust curriculum.”

“At a time when the health sector is more and more focused on spirituality as part of health and wellbeing will be valuable in gaining a deeper understanding of integrating the subject into the university curriculum and policy making processes.”