A. Peña-Fernández1, M.A. Peña2, M.C. Lobo-Bedmar3, M.D. Evans1

1De Montfort University, School of Allied Health Sciences, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences (UNITED KINGDOM)
2Universidad de Alcalá, Departamento de Ciencias Biomédicas (SPAIN)
3IMIDRA, Departamento de Investigación Agroambiental (SPAIN)
Following the recent communication from the European Societies of Toxicology (EUROTOX) advising that toxicology training and expertise is being eroded in the European Union, we have reviewed the teaching status of this subject in all the bioscience undergraduate courses offered at De Montfort University (DMU, UK). The courses reviewed were: Biomedical Science, Health and Wellbeing in Society, Speech and Language Therapy, Medical Science, Pharmaceutical and Cosmetic Science, Forensic Science and Pharmacy. None of these courses dedicate a complete module to the study of toxicology although they teach some aspects of toxicology following the subject-specific threshold standards described by the UK Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. Similar results are found in other UK Universities although a comprehensive study on the status of toxicology teaching is needed. We have not found any undergraduate courses currently offered in the UK that contained the word “toxicology” in their title. These results are in agreement with EUROTOX, which indicated that toxicology has been generally integrated into other bioscience disciplines and is mainly offered as part of a taught postgraduate degree programme in Europe.

Owing to these observations, our teaching group is performing different strategies to enhance the teaching of toxicology at DMU as we consider that the learning of this science is critically important to enable future health professionals to protect human health. These strategies included the developed of specialised teaching/workshop sessions in toxicology that can be easily included in any undergraduate bioscience module. Thus, during 2016/17 we collected comprehensive feedback (during an Eramus+ mobility grant for academics) from human health students about their views on the teaching of toxicology and one of the specialised workshops in a programme that does not offer a module in toxicology (BMedSci Medical Science, DMU) and one that does (MPharm. Pharmacy, University of San Pablo CEU, Spain). A high proportion of the students consulted requested more teaching of toxicology or the introduction of more specialised toxicology in their programmes. Thus, 85% of second year BMedSci students indicated that they would like to receive more toxicology training. Also, 42.9% (57.1% neither agree nor disagree) of fourth year MPharm. students suggested the incorporation of specialised environmental toxicology workshops within their course and all of them considered the environmental toxicology training relevant to their general toxicology module.

Other strategies implemented include the enhancement of research in toxicology in our university by offering final projects on these topics to undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as for completion of PhDs. Finally, DMU has recently recruited two toxicologists as academic staff, allowing us to promote the teaching/research of toxicology as well as exploring the possibility of developing postgraduate content for the teaching of toxicology. More efforts should be considered to enhance the teaching of this subject in any bioscience programme, as the current status of toxicology in the UK has been eroded.