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15 Aug 2019

BY JESSICA YANG, PRESIDENT, AUSTRALIAN MEDICAL STUDENTS’ ASSOCIATION

“Does anyone know why I have seen groups of people wearing capes and animal costumes the last few mornings?” asked a Hobart local on an online forum earlier this month. “Is there a Harry Potter fan convention on?”

On the 7th of July, more than 800 medical students from all around Australia converged on Hobart, Tasmania. For many, it was their first time visiting our southern-most State. For the UTAS medical students running the event, it has been a two-year undertaking to bring AMSA’s 60th National Convention to life.

Throughout the week, students took part in a hands-on academic program including esteemed speakers such as Dr Sally Cockburn and Professor Nicholas Talley. Workshops ranged from plastering to fermenting foods and for our more adventurous delegates, excursions to Mount Wellington and other Hobart must-sees. In the middle of the week, teams from each medical school were pitted against each other at our Sports Day and Emergency Medical Challenge (congratulations to my own Western Sydney University for their first championship!). And to round out our busy days, Hobart delivered one of our most unique social programs, with the Museum of Old and New Art as the highlight venue of the week.

Convention does more than let students learn and socialise; during the week, students are challenged to question the current state of medical education. Opening the event, Governor of Tasmania, Her Excellency Kate Warner, used her platform to remind students of the importance of advocating for patients, calling on a greater focus of the education on intimate partner violence in medical school. During my closing speech, I addressed the bleak picture around the support and mental health of medical students and junior doctors as of late.

“In recent times, we have lost friends, we have lost peers and we have lost mentors to a medical system that failed to support them. As our final year medical students wait on internship offers, we have seen multiple hospitals lose college accreditation due to bullying and harassment, and others lose trainees for unsafe working conditions. In just the last month, we have heard of the suicides of two junior doctors. I see this, and I am terrified for my friends who are graduating. I am terrified that our superiors, our faculties and our hospitals are failing us; and all I can do is implore that we all take care of each other when others will not.”

It is a sombre note to close on, when compared to the energetic fun and close camaraderie between medical students I see at every Convention year on year. But it is a reminder that medical students cannot wait for others to advocate on our behalf; our strongest supports are those around us.

It is an evolving challenge to keep AMSA’s National Convention at the forefront of a medical student's calendar, especially as our student population changes, along with their interests and priorities. There is no shortage of academic conferences geared towards medical students, and plenty of social nights in our calendars too. Convention sets itself apart by bringing together like-minded students to learn, to let their hair down (sometimes in capes and costumes), to advocate and to take care of each other from every corner of the country.

Congratulations to Declan Hilder, 2019 AMSA National Convention Convenor, and his amazing team for putting on such an amazing event.


Published: 15 Aug 2019