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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!

What is Global Health?

A journey through medicine.

Timothy Martin is the AMSA Global Health Officer for 2014 and a medical student at Monash University.

“I want to study medicine because I want to help people.”

The very words uttered by many secondary school students on the cusp of their journey through medical school. My own motivation to study medicine was certainly connected to the injustices of the developing world and I wanted to do something about it. So I decided to get involved with my local global health group, Ignite.

Tim Martin and Hui Ling Yeoh

After a few years of involvement, along came my first clinical year. Enter Tim, a fresh-eyed, junior medical student during his first few weeks in a hospital. My first rotation was cardiology. One day, I was listening to the consultant prescribe aspirin, anti-hypertensives and statins to a 53 year old post-AMI obese man with 3 kids. Listening to this consult, I had a rather paradoxical realisation; the impact this consultant was having on the patient’s overall health was ultimately miniscule. His lifestyle, where he lives, his level of education, diet, vocation, activity levels; these were the factors that truly had a significant impact on his health trajectory. Not a few drugs given too late in life.

What an epiphany!

That doctors, the gatekeepers of life and death, contribute only a fraction to health. The so called “social determinants of health” are the factors truly pulling the health strings, and the more I began to appreciate this paradox, the more I appreciated that far too few doctors and medical students understood these crucial dynamics.

These insights started a whole chain of strange thoughts, and I also began to question the meaning of global health. Why was it just about poverty in Africa? Are we Australian future doctors, as agents of healthcare, not going to be treating individuals living on the globe? Are we not all global health practitioners?

best

And thus my perception of “global health” began to change. For me, working in global health began to encompass everything that relates to health, anywhere in the world, including in Australia. This comprises micro-level interactions, such as treating individual patients at a very personal level, to macro, medico-political and geo-political issues. Being “global-healthy” means caring for your patients, appreciating the broader context of their health and recognising health inequity, not simply churning through patient after patient after patient.

This week, over 700 medical students will converge on Sydney for what is no doubt going to be a thought-provoking and inspiring Global Health Conference. You will meet some exceptionally motivated individuals with real passion for social change. You will be frustrated at the world’s injustices, have your ideology challenged, and grow as individuals and health practitioners.

As you listen to the academic program, I ask only two things:

1)     Reflect on what global health means to you: think outside the box, about physician-led advocacy, about the social determinants of health and the real causes of disease

2)     Go back to your university and spread this message: if anyone tells you they are not interested in global health, ask them, “Are the patients you will treat citizens of the globe?” If their answer is yes, they will be practising as “global health” physicians.

Global health is not a niche, nor a speciality.

It is a mainstream framework dedicated to the critical appraisal of disease causation and care for any single person in this world. If we truly care for our patients, the 21st century doctor needs to be better than merely choosing the best, evidence-based statin. We need to be advocates to our patients, advocates for our patients and most importantly, advocates for change.

Have a great week. Get inspired. Spread the message.

GHC rego

Timothy Martin is a medical student at Monash University and the AMSA Global Health Officer for 2014. If you’re interested in getting more involved with AMSA Global Health, please get in touch with Tim or check out the AMSA Global Health website. You can follow Tim on twitter @tjmar7 and join the conversation on twitter this week at @AMSAGHC and #GHC2014.

Medical school fees highlighted in Higher Education Reforms Regulation Impact Statement

This week in Canberra, the Government introduced the Higher Education and Research Reform Amendment Bill 2014. The bill seeks to, among other changes, deregulate university fees. In recent months, AMSA has opposed this proposed deregulation, and highlighted the public health concerns associated with skyrocketing medical school fees in particular.

The Government addressed the issue of medical school fees in the legislation’s Regulation Impact Statement. Excerpts from the statement are included below:

4.4 Additional options identified through the consultation process

During consultations with sector stakeholders (see section 5), additional options were identified and subsequently considered by the working groups.

4.4.5 Medical places

Set a net price cap. Given the number of Commonwealth supported medical places will continue to be designated by the Government, the Government would set a new maximum student contribution level for courses in medicine. This would account for the proposed reduction in Commonwealth contribution and provide some scope for price differentiation

The introduction of the demand driven system for bachelor level Commonwealth supported places in 2012 did not include an uncapping of medical places, primarily due to the shortage of clinical training places for medical students and the high cost of providing medical training. The reforms announced in the 2014/15  Budget proposed that medical places continue to be capped but that fees for medical places be deregulated. Given that demand for medical places is likely to remain high and supply capped, it is unlikely that universities will compete on price in offering medical degrees following fee deregulation. This is an issues considered further in section 6.4.

6.4.6 Medical places (Set a net price cap)

Under this option, the Australian Government would set a new maximum student contribution level for courses in medicine, both to account for the proposed reduction in Commonwealth contribution and to provide some scope for price differentiation.

The impacts of this option will be dependent on the price cap elected by the Australian Government. A price cap that is too low will likely become the effective price for undertaking a medical degree in Australia, and will prevent the market from realising the benefits associated with price differentiation. A price that is too high will likely be no different than having no price cap at all.

Choosing an effective price cap – one that prevents excessive price increase (given that enrolments in medical places will remain capped), but also allows for price differentiation – will likely require considerable analysis and experimentation on behalf of the Australian Government.

Summary

It is unclear whether this option represents a net benefit or a net cost relative to the Government’s proposed reforms – given that the value of the net price cap has yet to be determined. This option is likely to be more regulatory, but it is unclear whether the costs associated with this additional burden would be significant and/or greater than the possible benefits arising from the option. If the Government choose to pursue this option, greater analysis and ongoing monitoring would be required

7.4 Additional options identified through the consultation process – not preferred

Medical places

Set a net price cap.

Applying a cap is a more regulatory option compared to the proposed deregulation of fees. Regulating in this way, in the context of a high paying profession, makes little sense. While the application of a price cap on student fees could potentially constrain cost for students at more desirable institutions, it would also reduce the capacity of providers to compete fully on price and quality. Any cap would need to be set high enough to allow adequate provider revenue to be generated, and still provide scope for price differentiation.

The cost-benefit analysis showed it is unclear as to whether this option represents a net benefit or a net cost relative to the Government’s proposed reforms. If chosen well, a net price cap should allow for price differentiation, while also tempering excessive price increases driven by caps on the number of medical places. Choosing an effective price cap would require considerable analysis and experimentation on behalf of the Australian Government. This option was not recommended by the Legislation and Financing Working Group. This recommendation was supported by Government.

Medical students support a strong renewable energy target

The Australian Medical Students’ Association is calling on the Federal Government to achieve the greatest feasible Renewable Energy Contribution by 2020 to protect the health of Australians.

Yesterday, the Renewable Energy Target review was released, finding the current scheme was effective and could achieve a 26% share of electricity from renewable sources by 2020, yet recommending ending support for new renewable energy power stations.

Despite a submission from AMSA, it was disappointing to note that the review failed to adequately address the health benefits of the RET, including the economic savings.

For the full media release, please see here: AMSA RET Press Release

Applications open – East Asian Medical Student Conference (EAMSC) 2015

Applications are now open for delegate positions to the East Asian Medical Student Conference (EAMSC) 2015 to be held in Jakarta, Indonesia.

This 6-day conference (January 10 – 15) allows medical students from over 27 countries from the Asian, Pacific, Oceanic and European regions come together to discuss a pertinent topic in medicine. It is a brilliant way to undertake and present research on the international stage, get involved in a unique public health campaign on the global level, sightsee around a foreign country, and make lasting friendships with our international counterparts. An immersive social program, cultural performances and cultural exchange lead to a truly memorable and heart-warming experience. You then have the opportunity to get published, present your research or distribute your public health poster or film clip nationally back here in Australia.

The post-conference tour (January 15 – 18) is to be held in beautiful beached Bali!

The theme for this year focuses on a subspecialty of infectious diseases: Sexually Transmitted Infections.

Please click here for the documents outlining the application process:
Chief Delegate (have attended an AMSA International conference before)
General Delegate (first time attendees)

For further queries, contact the Regional Chairperson of AMSA International Australia, Michael Keem: rcaustralia@amsa-international.org or the AMSA GHO, Timothy Martin: tim.martin@amsa.org.au

Media Release: Medical students launch national youth mental health campaign

Medical students launch national youth mental health campaign

Media Release. August 21 2014.

The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) is this morning launching a national campaign to tackle the burden of mental health afflicting Australia’s youth. The campaign, supported by the Australian Medical Association, Headspace, beyondblue, and Orygen Youth Health, will be launched at an event in Melbourne this morning.

 

AMSA President, Jessica Dean, said today that Australia’s youth are disproportionally affected by the burden of mental health and AMSA is acting to both raise awareness as well as lobby for improved access to mental health services in tertiary education centres.

 

“The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that young Australians are at a greater risk of developing a mental health disorder, with more than a quarter of those aged between 16 and 24 years experiencing a mental health disorder in the previous 12 months,” Ms Dean said.

 

“Despite the increased burden of disease, youth are less likely to access services for mental health concerns. This denotes both a lack of awareness and opportunity.

 

“AMSA will be working with the universities to improve both access to mental health services as well as raising awareness with the community and young Australians.”

 

The campaign has support from multiple providers of mental health services, including Headspace. Headspace CEO, Chris Tanti, said today that for decades mental health has been the poor cousin and not kept pace with funding attracted by other specialities in medicine.

 

“This initiative by AMSA is critically important and signals that the future doctors of this country are up to date and well aware of the impact mental health problems have on the future wellbeing and health of all Australian,” Mr Tanti said.

 

The launch event is being held at 10:30 this morning, Thursday 21st August, at BOQ Specialist Bank, Level 49,120 Collins Street, Melbourne.

 

Speakers at the event include Professor Patrick McGorry, Jeff Kennett from beyondblue, Headspace, and Dr Sally Cockburn. Media is invited to attend.
For further information about the launch, or to arrange interviews with the AMSA President, speakers or delegates, please contact Mr Ben O’Sullivan on 0437 195 272 or publicrelations@amsa.org.au

 

Media contact:

Ben O’Sullivan

0437 195 272

publicrelations@amsa.org.au

 

Follow AMSA on Twitter:

http://twitter.com/yourAMSA

Medical students to launch national Mental Health Campaign

MEDIA ALERT

Thursday 21st August, 10:30am

BOQ Specialist Bank

Level 49, 120 Collins Street, Melbourne

Media invited to attend

The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) is hosting the launch of its Mental Health Campaign. Speakers include:
-        Professor Patrick McGorry AO, 2010 Australian of the year and executive director of Orygen Youth Health
-        Chris Tanti, CEO of Headspace
-        Professor Jayashri Kulkarni, Director of the Monash-Alfred Psychiatry Research Centre and professor of psychiatry
-        Jeff Kennett, Chairman of Beyondblue

Why: With over a quarter of people aged 16-24 years experiencing a mental health disorder annually, the Australian Medical Students’ Association is launching a campaign to address the mental health burden of young Australians. The campaign, the largest in the organisation’s history, will partner with national mental health organisations to raise awareness as well as educate and inform students and the wider public about mental health and wellbeing. Destigmatisation of mental health as well as a reduction in the national youth burden are crucial steps in providing future prosperity of both the individual and the nation.

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