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Call for applications – October

AMSA is excited to announce the next round of applications! There are a range of activities and initiatives covering a broad range of interests and skills – check it out!

AMSA Academy opportunities include:

  • National Subcommittee
  • Let’s Talk About Sex Course Convener
  • Electives pre-departure training course convener and subcommittee
  • AMSA Global Academy subcommittee
  • AMSA Advocates Subcommittee and Convener

Other positions include:

  • AMSA Global Health National Coordinator
  • AFRAM (AMSA For Refugee and Asylum seeker Mental health ) campaign and Crossing Borders for Health national committee
  • LGBTIQ Officer
  • AMSA Mentor Network Coordinator
  • Vampire Cup Coordinator
  • AMSA Global Health Policy subcommittee
  • General policy writers and reviewers (NCDs, Indigenous health, refugee and asylum seeker health, ethical events)

All applications due October 31st, 11:59pm AEST.

For more information please click here.

A reflection on GHC 2014

Chris Lemon

Christopher Lemon is a first year medical student at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney

‘Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom’ – Thomas Jefferson

I really didn’t know what to expect.

He could say, “Christopher, if I somehow found out that you were taking Penicillin, I really wouldn’t care”. On the other hand, he could also say, “anything you put online will be hacked at some stage by someone, somewhere in the world, and it will probably be used against you”.

These were some of the thoughts going through my scattered, terrified brain as I stood on stage in front of 800 fellow Australian medical students at the 2014 Australian Medical Students’ Association Global Health Conference (GHC). I had been given a once in a lifetime opportunity of speaking live with one of the most controversial leaders in global issues on the idea of using electronic medical records in Australia. ‘How did I end up here and what was the meaning of this experience?’ were my final thoughts as the speaker opened his mouth to give his view…

Chris Lemon asks his question to Julian Assange

Chris Lemon asks his question to Julian Assange

My undergraduate degree was in Arts. I was regularly surrounded by budding entrepreneurs and social activists in my first years at university. I am thus no stranger to grand visions that have changed the world (as well as many that haven’t). Yet when I started medicine at the beginning of 2014, although I had seen and heard all about worldly atrocities and great feats of humanity to do with healthcare, I was still perplexed about the concept of global health.

The 2014 GHC was initially presented as a conference all about understanding the meaning of change in global health. Across four days, delegates were to be immersed in ideas about change in your community, change in your focus, change in yourself and ultimately change in your world. There is no question that on the surface, the whole thing seemed to be of that common, alluring romantic ‘make the world a better place’ ilk, idolised by many but truly actioned by few.

Delegates attending a GHC workshop

Delegates attending a GHC workshop

With all this in mind, I decided to attend GHC 2014, not due to being persuaded by the grandeur of the idea of coming away evolved into an enlightened ‘changemaker’, but rather to see how the extremely dedicated team of medical students running the conference could combat cliché and convince delegates of the greater depths of understanding required to achieve change in global health.

The approach implemented was simple. Admittedly, however, it remained illusive to most until a sudden personal epiphany was had either in a confronting plenary, empowering workshop or even in the midst of an eclectic conversation with someone who was also awkwardly cold in the evening air, dressed in a too-short pink tutu in the name of charity. It was all about honesty. You must be honest with yourself and honest with the world around you, your world, before change in global health can ever be realised.

His Excellency Nobel Laureate Jose Ramos Horta addresses GHC

Nobel Laureate Jose Ramos Horta addresses a packed plenary at GHC

This idea of honesty preceding real global change was subtly and consistently embedded throughout the 2014 GHC program. The revered Nobel Laureate, José Ramos-Horta, spoke plainly about the fact that there might not be much of a role in his area of contribution for all those starry-eyed-super-motivated medical students in the audience. Dustin Leonard from HERO Condoms explained clearly that he had faced an inordinate number of incredibly frustrating initially insurmountable obstacles when trying to sell the idea of safe sex in Botswana through an innovative condom campaign. And in my particular case, Julian Assange responded to my question about whether we should invest in electronic medical records with what he described as a “flamethrower” response, claiming that no matter the underlying intentions, whatever information is put on the Internet, whether by you or someone else, will get hacked and potentially transformed in ways you had never even remotely considered.

I did not fully agree with e-health picture painted by Mr Assange, and for that matter with insights from some of the other speakers also, but by the end of his response, I understood the real impact of this and other interactions at GHC. All those whom we were fortunate enough to encounter were able to create true change across the globe because from the outset, they had ploughed past a superficial ‘clicktivist’ understanding of global health with an unrelenting honesty towards themselves, those around them and their community. They had seen things exactly as they are, developed a realistic vision for change and then empowered people in order to achieve this vision in the best ways they knew how.

It is this realisation more than any other, I believe, that will be the enduring legacy of this year’s Australian Medical Students’ Association Global Health Conference.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

Matt McAlpineMatt McAlpine is final year medical student at the University of Western Sydney. Having a personal experience of mental illness through medical school, he has developed a passion for encouraging young people to be open about their struggles and seek help when needed.

 

We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re gonna catch a big one…I’m not scared!

Looking back on 5 years of med school, I can honestly say it’s been the most incredible adventure. A bear hunt filled with life-changing experiences shared with the most wonderful people; but at times wrought with obstacles that a savvy medical student must navigate to ensure survival. Whether it’s the egotistical consultants with insatiable appetites for the public humiliation of unwitting students; or the endless onslaught of written exams and OSCEs that always seem to focus on the exact things you didn’t study; or the constant threat of physical, financial and social oblivion that we supposedly consented to. We all eventually learn that -

We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. Oh no! We’ve got to go through it! 

When faced with the heartbreaking reality of mental illness that so many of us will experience, the road to recovery can seem so impossible that you question why you ever embarked on this bear hunt in the first place. If you ever find yourself ready to turn back or give up completely, please believe me that there is no obstacle so great that we cannot find a way through. That is, if we are prepared for the journey, accept the things we cannot control and let ourselves be vulnerable enough to receive help when we need it.

You can’t ‘get over’ depression however hard you try; just like Ronald Weasley and his Devil’s Snare, fighting against it alone can make things much worse.

You can’t go around or avoid anxiety; it arbitrarily devastates and can bring even the strongest and most resilient people to their knees.

Sadly, you can’t dig a hole to bury your head in the ground hoping to wake up on the other side of loneliness and heartbreak unscathed.

When you’re standing at the edge of the world, surrounded by a seemingly endless expanse of hopelessness and despair there is only one way to overcome, and that way is through.

Setting out on a bear hunt, an experienced adventurer will hope for the best, but plan for the worst – and this means having your wits about you even when the sky is clear. If a storm were to rudely interrupt your journey, only a fool would ignore it, or spend all their energy trying to make it stop. It’s also rather silly to blame yourself or somebody else for the weather; it’s completely out of your control. The storm clouds of mental illness can arrive without warning or permission to ruin the most perfect of days, and they certainly aren’t our fault.

And when it rains, it sure as hell can pour.

Like when you find yourself violently sobbing for hours under your bed screaming to the black sky for mercy and reprieve. When you are so physically crippled with fear and panic that you collapse next to your trolley in the cereal aisle. When the ghosts of your past and the demons in your mind haunt the deepest recesses of your being, convincing you that everyone would be better off if you just disappeared.

When every inch of you is soaked through, the wind stinging your eyes and the thunder pounding your ears, please remember that just like the most terrifying storm, these moments will not last forever. With this in mind pack a sturdy umbrella in your knapsack, a woollen blanket for the cold nights and be willing to adjust your speed while waiting for the sun to rise.

When the most elementary functions of being human start to disintegrate like your sleep, appetite, energy, motivation and ability to enjoy everyday things – let these barometers trigger a contingency plan of regular sleep, exercise, healthy eating and mindfulness. When you seemingly lose control over your own body as it launches a full-scale revolt of palpitations, weakness, breathlessness and the mental pandemonium of panic, find the courage and humility to raise an umbrella by accepting help from professionals like your GP, or starting medications for a time if needed.  When all hope is lost, and you are certain that your mind and heart are beyond redemption, cling desperately to the warm blanket of close friendships and family. Believe them when they say that you are dearly loved, and life is better when you’re around.

Many seasoned bear hunters will speak of obstacles so immense and frightening that simply surviving becomes a daily battle. Sometimes the mud is so thick, the river so wide and the forest so dark that a wise adventurer must adjust their trajectory and expectations accordingly, even if it means slowing down momentarily to focus on each individual step. This can be remarkably difficult to practice as a medical student, considering most of us have powered through the open fields of life with extraordinary motivation and zeal.

When encountering mental illness the temptation is to maintain the same velocity; keeping all prior commitments and projecting the same external demeanour lest others think you aren’t coping. Realistically, this is not only impossible but also dangerous. If you reach the end of some days thinking, ‘all I have achieved today is getting out of bed, and not killing myself’, you have in fact taken a most momentous step; one requiring a level of courage others may never truly understand. That is accomplishment enough.

Most importantly, never go on a bear hunt alone. Make the excruciating choice to be vulnerable to those who care about you, and share your struggles with them just as you would your triumphs. Silence is deadly. Sitting in your room alone with your heartache and suffering day after day may feel romantic. Setting out on an adventure without needing anybody’s help may seem stoic. But when the lies of your weary mind are the only words you hear, they can be powerfully convincing. Find the strength to open up a window and let the light in. Reach out a hand and let the world help you get through this storm. Your story is so important, and an incredible adventure is waiting for you on the other side.

For those who haven’t experienced mental illness and are running through the open fields conquering any obstacle in your path, and those who have emerged on the other side striding along the road to recovery: I beg you with all that I am to have open eyes and minds to see those struggling to make it through each day. Open your heart to be the light that shines through their window, the hand that pulls them out of the sinking sand and the warm blanket that holds them through the darkest nights.

We’re going on a bear hunt. We’re gonna catch a big one, and I’m not scared.
Because we can get through this.

You will get through this.

 

If you are in need of urgent assistance, please call LifeLine on 13 11 14. You can also find a range of helpful resources, including our Keeping Your Grass Greener wellbeing guide at our mental health website.

 

This post is part of AMSA’s National Blue Week – a week dedicated to promoting mental health and wellbeing and breaking down stigma against mental illness. Follow the action on our social media pages this week – and share our mental health infographic to help spread the word.

Blue Week infographic

Medical students all dressed up in graduation gowns with nowhere to work

Media Release
30 September 2014

The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) has today obtained figures showing that hundreds of medical graduates will not be able to become doctors in our community.

The National Medical Intern Data Management Working Group has completed an audit of offers, and concluded that approximately 240 Australian graduates will not be offered a State or Territory position.

AMSA President, Jessica Dean, said today that AMSA is very disappointed that such a large number of graduates from Australian medical schools will be unable to practise in Australia.

“As regions of Australia continue to suffer from doctor shortages, it is nonsensical to be wasting another cohort of medical graduates,” Ms Dean said.

“Completing an internship is an essential process for a graduate to work as a doctor in Australia. If the Government is serious about correcting the ongoing doctor shortage, it makes sense to completely utilise the graduating Australian workforce.

“These students have spent up to six years immersed in Australian culture, learning our diseases, and training in our healthcare system. They are perfectly suited to serve Australia. They just need to be given a chance.”

The shortfall is yet to be finalised. The Commonwealth Medical Initiative (CMI) is yet to offer positions for the 2015 intake. This program was developed for international-born Australian graduates to complete an internship in Australia. While the initiative promised ‘up to 100’ places, AMSA was disappointed that only 76 were offered last year.

“The CMI initiative is a welcome addition to the medical training landscape. However, the addition of 76 places may still leave over 160 medical graduates who will be forced to take their skills overseas,” Ms Dean said.

“Last year, the CMI initiative was oversubscribed with 183 applicants for 76 positions. These graduates not only want to work in Australia, they are even happy to relocate to work in areas of need, especially rural and regional Australia. Isn’t this the answer we are looking for?

“By failing to facilitate training opportunities, Australia is allowing itself to become a victim of brain drain.”

“Refusing to train local graduates and then filling the deficit with overseas-trained doctors is remarkably myopic.

“AMSA is calling on the Government to invest in the future of health care and provide Australia with the health care system it needs,” Ms Dean said.

Media contact:

Ben O’Sullivan
0437 195 272
publicrelations@amsa.org.au

Follow AMSA on Twitter:
http://twitter.com/yourAMSA

What makes a good med student: a nursing student’s perspective.

Emma Ward

Emma Ward is a third year nursing student at Monash University.

As a nursing student, I have observed many doctors and med students on my clinical placements – some good and some bad. No doubt by now you have given some thought to what makes a good doctor, but what qualities do nursing students consider to be foundational to making a great med student (and one day, doctor)?

Respect

Occasionally I have experienced a hierarchal rivalry between doctors and nurses on placement. I admit this is not something I have witnessed too much of between students, however it is has come up. At an undergraduate morning tea I was introducing myself to a med student whom after discovering I was studying nursing said “Oh! I couldn’t do it. Are you doing nursing because you didn’t get into med?” as if nursing were the ‘scum’ of the health professions. I was a little shocked at first because the truth is I have wanted to pursue nursing since I was eight years old and both doctors and nurses are hugely interdependent on one another. That isn’t a dig at anyone in particular, however I think in general doctors, nurses and other allied health professionals alike can all incorporate a little more respect for one another’s work. After all, respect isn’t a one-way street.

keep calm respect

Communication

Whether it be communicating to your colleagues or your patients, communication is key. Remember who your target audience is. I understand using medical terminology makes you feel intelligent (I feel that too), and it is fine to flaunt this with colleagues, however remember what it was like when you first started med and it felt like you were learning a new language. I witnessed a med student tell a mother that they were going to have to cauterise her six-year-old son to stop the recurrent epistaxis. She looked pretty concerned over the next five minutes as the student continued to explain the plan. It wasn’t until she was told that he was referring to the recurrent nosebleeds her son had been experiencing that she relaxed. Then of course there is the “doctor’s handwriting” matter. Granted doctors are busy but I have to say I love it when I pick up a patient’s file to see the med student has written the notes because 9 times out of 10, they are legible…at least more so than the doctor’s.

medical alphabet

A Sense of Humour

This isn’t so much a quality of a good med student as it is a quality of a good person. It is inevitable that in your field of work you will encounter some pretty bleak situations and carrying a sense of humour with you throughout your career is never a bad thing. Of course there is a time and place for humour, but I honestly believe laughter is the best medicine (at least one of them). I remember on my first placement, a third year med student was assessing a patient who had been experiencing a lot of abdominal discomfort. Upon palpation the patient was embarrassed when they were flatulent. Much to the student’s credit she made a joke of it, saying “well it’s a little bit windy in here today isn’t it”. Humour has the power to return the humanity to your work, ease fear and not to mention it will keep you sane.

lightbulb

Sharing

Share your knowledge and experiences. As students we share a similar level of enthusiasm towards tasks and procedures which are pretty mundane in the daily lives of our qualified counterparts. Maybe it is just me, but I love coming together with med students and discussing concepts I don’t quite understand to the same level or hearing about the time you got to scrub in on that knee replacement. Despite what you may think, we have more exciting stories to share than that time our patient was incontinent of faeces…though we have plenty of those stories if you are interested.

fluidsSo there you have it. Four qualities that nursing students (or maybe it is just me) believe make a wonderful med student. Say hi to the next nursing student you run into on the wards!

Medical students save thousands of lives

The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) has concluded its annual blood drive in conjunction with the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. The annual blood drive encourages medical students to roll up their sleeves and donate blood.

AMSA President, Ms Jessica Dean, said today that the donation of blood is crucial for modern medicine and that Australia’s medical students have donated in record levels this year.

“Australians require 27,000 blood donations every week. Blood donation should be a habit of those who can.

“The AMSA blood drive ensures the future medical workforce is both confident to donate and encourage those in the community.”

Over the two month blood drive, there were 1,414 donations made by students. With each donation on average being distributed to at least 3 recipients, AMSA has saved the lives of 4,242 people.

“This has been the most successful AMSA Blood Drive and we are extremely proud to assist the Red Cross in providing the healthcare system with this valuable resource.”

Vampire Cup Results

The university with the most donations per capita is awarded the AMSA Vampire Cup. This year, Deakin Medical Students’ Association was awarded with the Vampire Cup for the fourth year running.

Deakin AMSA representative, Brad Richardson, said today that the university have developed a strong culture of blood donation over the last four years which has resulted in sustained success.

“Deakin students understand the great value of blood donation and are honoured to assist the healthcare system in the Geelong community each and every year,” Mr Richardson said.

Deakin claimed victory with 38% of the cohort donating, following by ANU Medical Students’ Society (18%) and University of Melbourne Medical Students’ Society (16.5%).

Full results can be accessed at https://www.amsa.org.au/uncategorized/20140922-vampire-cup-results/

Media contact:

Ben O’Sullivan

0437 195 272

publicrelations@amsa.org.au

Follow AMSA on Twitter:

http://twitter.com/yourAMSA

Does your Member of Parliament represent your views?

Kunal Portrait photo Kunal Luthra is AMSA Vice President (External) 2014.

Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve. – George Bernard Shaw

Refugee health, climate change, funding for medical internships, funding for universities, whether you pay $7 every time you visit a GP, the nation’s strategies on Indigenous health, marriage equality, foreign aid, the rural background entry quota for medical schools.

That listing was in no particular order. What is one thing they all have in common?

One answer would be that 150 members of the House of Representatives and 76 Senators ultimately decide how Australia is going to approach all of these issues. That’s for a country of more than 22 million people with unique backgrounds, perspectives and a wide array of opinions.

Catherine King meeting

Medical students meeting with The Hon Catherine King MP, Shadow Minister for Health

It is easy to develop a cynical attitude to democracy, but as Winston Churchill said, democracy “is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried”. This is what we’re stuck with! And it is our right to be represented by those whose lives revolve around representing us.

I would like to ask you a question: If you haven’t yet met your local MP, and are passionate about an issue, why not?

The more people they hear from on an issue, the more likely they will take those thoughts back to the party room, or perhaps even to the chamber itself. They may even begin to think the topic would be relevant to their re-election. Through them, we have an opportunity to advocate for change – we just need to grasp it.

It is a daunting prospect at times. Practically, the following brief tips may be helpful:

  1. Learn a bit about your MP. Use this link to find your electorate and then Google them to garner some more information on what they are passionate about. If they are new and relatively unknown, look up their name on the Parliament website and have a read through their first speech.
  2. Call up the office and say you are a constituent hoping to set up a face-to-face meeting during a week when Parliament isn’t sitting [you can find the Parliamentary sitting dates here]. The office should facilitate the rest of the process, which may involve you being put in contact with the MP’s Diary Manager. If you would prefer to handle it all over email you may still succeed, just be sure to make your residential address obvious in the email so they know that you live in the electorate.
  3. When sending the meeting request, make it clear who you are, what issues you would like to discuss, when you’re available and whether you have any specific asks. All with an overt display of politeness of course (no matter your opinion of them).
  4. Prior to the meeting, if you can, send through a ‘one pager’ – a one page summary of what you would like to cover and some of the key points. Often they will print this out and have it with them while you’re discussing the topics.
  5. Prepare for the meeting by being clear in your own mind about what you want to achieve, doing your research, and confirming all the information you would like to convey. Have a clear ask: a tangible outcome that you want from the meeting, or an idea you want your MP to take to the party room on your behalf.
  6. The meeting itself will likely be for no more than 30 minutes. Outline what you would like to cover at the start. Spend some time explaining the issue and then leave time for discussion. Assess their initial understanding and background knowledge. Remember it is easy for them (and everyone else) to phase out if they’re just listening for 20 minutes about stuff they’ve heard before. Try your best to engage them in conversation and then conclude by pointedly asking for tangible outcomes. If they agree– great! Perhaps they can be an ally. The next step would be to explore what you can achieve together. If they disagree, find out why and do some rebuttal.
  7. If the MP or someone from their staff asks you to provide further information, or send through any documentation, make a note so that you remember. It may also be beneficial to grab the card of any staff member in the room so you can contact them directly if you have small updates or further information to send through.
  8. Finally, follow up the meeting about a week later with a phone call or email to their office to find out whether the MP actually did respond to your ask.

It is easy to feel intimidated beforehand – but remember, they meet with various groups and individuals all day, and our thoughts aren’t any less important than the next person. Also remember that it is impossible for them to remain on top of every topic, so this is your chance to explain issues that matter to you.

Participants in AMSA’s National Leadership Development Seminar meet with MPs

AMSA frequently engages with MPs and Senators both in Canberra and locally. To broaden the reach of medical student advocacy and to ensure medical student issues are heard, we are building a group of medical students interested in advocating to their MP and gaining skills in advocacy. If you’re interested in getting involved, then check out AMSA Advocates – the first module will be on refugee and asylum seeker health.

Kunal Luthra is AMSA Vice President (External) for 2014 – you can follow him on twitter @luthrak_ or get in touch by email.

amsa advocates

Applications open – Sponsored trip to USA for Access to Essential Medicines Conference

AMSA is excited to provide one Australian medical student with the opportunity to attend the UAEM (Universities Allied For Essential Medicines) Conference to be held at Duke University, 7-10 November 2014.

Up to 90% of your round trip flight will be covered, as well as a $200 stipend and accommodation with a local UAEM student.

This is a significant opportunity, and as such, AMSA is looking to send a student who has demonstrated interested in access to essential medicines and would be willing to put substantial effort into building the UAEM profile in Australia during 2015. It will require a commitment to actively participate in and contribute to the conversations and panels at the conference, and bring the work of UAEM back to Australia and AMSA. 

Application details:

  • 1 page (500 word max) cover letter outlining their motivation to attend and experiences relevant to the role
  • 2 page CV
  • An interview may also be undertaken
  • Send to Timothy Martin, AMSA Global Health Officer at tim.martin@amsa.org.au
  • Deadline: Saturday 20th September 2014, 11:59pm

AMSA Opportunities – your chance to be part of something life-changing

We are thrilled to open applications for a number of key positions within the Australian Medical Students’ Association for 2015 and 2016 – and you are invited to apply to be part of something extraordinary. Available positions include:

Events Positions:

  • AMSA National Convention Brisbane 2016 Convenor
  • AMSA Global Health Conference Rural 2016 Convenor
  • AMSA National Leadership Development Seminar 2015 Team

Team Leaders:

  • AMSA Mental Health Campaign Coordinator
  • AMSA Academy Coordinator
  • Academy of the Mind Course Convenor
  • Let’s Talk About Sex Course Convenor
  • AFRAM (AMSA for Refugee and Asylum Seeker Mental Health) Campaign Coordinator

The application process for each role is slightly different so please ensure you read through the information below carefully.

AMSA Opportunities Application Information

Please get in touch if you have any queries – contact Events Coordinator Tom Crookes (events@amsa.org.au) regarding events queries and Vice President (Internal) Karen Freilich (vpi@amsa.org.au) regarding all other positions.

We look forward to receiving your applications – good luck!