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09 Sep 2019


AMSA’s 15th annual Global Health Conference saw 750 medical students from around Australia converge in Sydney early last month. Delegates called UNSW’s recently refurbished Roundhouse their academic get-away from Friday to Sunday, with a taste of Sydney’s vibrant nightlife as their social program, and a festival on Monday to round out their conference. This year’s GHC had a specific vision: to make waves.

Over the days, students were challenged to think of issues that might not be seen in their PBL cases. From speakers like Mark Isaacs, author and advocate for asylum seekers, and Anita Vandyke, who lives a zero-waste life, or a closing panel on how we can do more for intersex patients in our healthcare. GHC is one of the most unique events in a medical student’s calendar, with a very specific call-to-action that is often missing from other conferences: to think globally and act locally.

As medical professionals, it is often easy to dismiss global health issues, and even some public health issues, as outside of our scope. Perhaps I will never find myself practising outside of Sydney, or even outside of a clinic’s particular radius as I move into my career – how can I possibly care for people that I may never interact with?

While any one individual might never be able to reach every person across the globe, it is true that we have a particular duty that comes along with our individual voices. Medical students borrow a generous amount of legitimacy from doctors (thank you!) and as ‘baby doctors’, we have an obligation to utilise our position and whatever influence we can muster to address the concerns of the under-represented or neglected in our global community.

As a salient example, medical students came together to take part in the #MyIDMyIdentity campaign, coordinated at the event by AMSA Queer, our National Project which advocates on the health of LGBTIQ+ individuals and medical students. The campaign pushed for the Victorian bill to allow transgender and gender-diverse people to change their recorded sex on their birth certificates without needing gender affirmation surgery. On the night of August 27, the bill was passed and Victoria joined Tasmania, Northern Territory, South Australia and the ACT in making this change.

In a country as diverse as Australia, the reality is that issues that may seem ‘global’ are making it to our front step and are affecting the health of our future patients. Global health is not only a far-off disaster medicine placement. We are already interacting with global health in our local community in many forms: changing health outcomes from climate change; patients from a refugee or asylum seeker background; queer and questioning individuals who are coming to their GP for advice. To ‘think globally and act locally’ is preparing medical students to best care for these patients as we encounter them now, and further into our careers.

Congratulations to Ceren Guler and her amazing team for their tireless work bringing AMSA’s GHC to life.

Published: 09 Sep 2019