Von Paolo Geneta – Australasian Students’ Surgical Conference 2015
The 2015 Australasian Students’ Surgical Conference was held in Perth, Western Australia on the 1st-3rd May. It provided me with a unique opportunity to explore and learn about pursuing a surgical career, through the speakers, workshops and research presentations.
Friday night was the careers and networking night where we got an opportunity to talk to doctors from various surgical specialties under the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. Saturday was a full academic day of informative and inspiring speakers from all around the world, as well as research presentations from other medical students in Australasia. Some of my favourite speakers of the weekend include:
• Associate Professor Munjed Al Muderis, who shared his extraordinary life story involving escaping the violence in Baghdad, being incarcerated in a refugee camp, and building himself back up to be one of the world’s leading orthopaedic surgeons
• Professor Stephen Honeybul, a neurosurgeon who analysed the question “What is an acceptable quality of life?” and how it relates to when to operate on a patient
• Mr Richard Villar, an orthopaedic surgeon who has worked in disaster relief, sharing fantastic stories and tips if we wanted to become involved in something similar in the future
For a surgical conference, I was pleasantly surprised to discover how diverse and intellectually challenging the talks were – from the motivational and informational, to the questioning of the ethical and professional roles of surgeons, to sharing how various technological advances will aid medical and surgical practice in the future.
My favourite part of the conference was Sunday, held in the Clinical Training and Evaluation Centre at the University of Western Australia. We were allocated to practical skills workshops and we learned various surgical skills and techniques on simulated models, which will come in handy during clinical years and towards the future. In my time, I got to practice suturing, gastroscopy and endoscopy, cricothyrotomy, and orthopaedic internal fixation. I particularly enjoyed the hands-on practical teaching that we do not usually see in pre-clinical years.
It’s easy to get lost in all the lectures and tutorials during pre-clinical years, and I found myself often losing sight of the bigger picture and where I am headed in the future and what I would be doing. I think that the ASSC gave me the opportunity to refresh and see how all the hard work will aid others in the future, and the various challenges to overcome before that. I enjoyed my time in Perth very much, and I would recommend attending the ASSC, even if you’re not sure of your intentions in pursuing a surgical career. The weekend provided an insightful, inspirational and intellectually stimulating conference. I would like to thank AUMSA for aiding me in attending the Australasian Students’ Surgical Conference; I am very grateful for the privilege.
Natasha Ironside – Research; University of Alberta 2013
I arrived in Edmonton in November 2013 told by Grant, who would be picking me up from the airport, that I would need a winter coat. It was snowing outside, there were ice hockey statues at the luggage claim and the stewards had been telling jokes over the loudspeaker in the aeroplane. Canada was living up to its stereotype so far. Little did I know that I would soon be experiencing -40 degree celcius temperatures which can only be described as a numb butt and brain freeze. All part of the experience I guess.
The opportunity to work in a research laboratory at the University of Alberta has been fantastic as I have been allowed to work independently from day one on some fascinating research projects. I am learning the techniques of X-Ray crystallography which is a method for determining protein structure previously used to show the structure of DNA and of the ribosome among other interesting biological molecules. The post-doc fellow and I grow and harvest crystals to be analysed under x-ray. High resolution diffraction gives a picture of the molecule’s electron density which can be used to mathematically solve its structure. Most of the work in the lab is in the area of heart failure proteins, looking at their structure and function. The lab is eventually hoping to develop a prediction model for the genetic development of heart failure in the future.
This coming Monday I will meet with 7 other students from around the world also in this same research program. We will have seminars and research presentations together although my roommate tells me that I need to organise a pub crawl for them as well.
I have had a chance to see other parts of Canada, visiting Revelstoke for some powder skiing over Christmas/New Years. The mountains are beautiful as is all of the snow decorating the city.
Now that my interest has been ignited, I hope to continue my study of x ray crystallography in the future. I thank AUMSA for the opportunity and support to come and learn firsthand about medical science research in Canada. It has been an insightful experience.
Tara Clinick – Samoa Spinal Trust Volunteer 2012
It was subsequently recognised that there were many other people with spinal injuries in Samoa who were mostly discharged from hospital without any equipment, advice, or training of family members in how to care for the person. Many did not have adequate wheelchairs or wheelchair access into the home, commodes, or other necessary equipment. Many also had bedsores and other conditions which were easily preventable. Just before we arrived one man had just died because his entire back had become one big infected bedsore from neglect and lack of education in simple bedsore prevention.
We visited a total of about 20 people across both islands of Samoa and spent time with them in their fales, taking a full medical and social history and conducting a needs assessment with the ultimate aim of fundraising to provide basic requirements and make their lives slightly easier. The families of these patients were extremely warm and welcoming to us, and we had a fantastic summer spending time with them, getting to know them, and hearing their stories. They were all inspirational people who really touched us with their generosity and spirit, and we are looking forward for our chance to return.
Ryan Cha – ANZAHPE Conference 2012
The 4 themes for the conference 2012 were the following:
- Hot springs – sharing research, sharing practice
- Bubbling to the surface – emergent ideas, innovation
- Stuck in the mud – problems needing solutions
- Changing the landscape, the next 40 years – forward looking
My presentation was in the form of electronic poster (under the theme of “hot springs”), to share some new findings from my most recent summer studentship on overseas medical student electives, which was done under the supervision of Dr Judith McCool and Associate professor Warwick Bagg.
The research on this topic was carried out because the interest that medical students have in global health has been increasing in recent years and for many students, this is fulfilled as their overseas elective programme in their 6th (Trainee Intern) year. The overseas elective is therefore a unique opportunity to engage health professionals to contribute to the health of populations especially in low and middle-income countries.
Our aims were 1) to identify the key learning outcomes for elective experiences in Low-Middle Income Countries (LMIC) compared to a High Income Country (HIC) and 2) to provide students and medical curriculum planners with insights to guide future learning in global health.
A sample of 20 LMIC and 20 HIC elective reports were randomly selected from a total sample of 271. A general inductive approach was used to analyse the data and to identify emerging themes consistent with the study aims.
Students from two groups had different motivations. For those students who desired to go to LMIC, they wanted to experience “grassroot medicine”, working in limited resources and understand better about socio-economic determinants of health. On the other hand, those students who chose to go to HIC wanted a secure and safe experience in an advanced clinical environment with new technology.
An interesting finding was that the students from both groups had one main, the most important goal and that was to improve their competency as a doctor in the areas of taking medical histories, procedural skills, interpretation of investigation skills, formulating differential diagnoses and developing clinical management plans.
We found that students from LMIC experienced overwhelming life related events such as poverty and death, and much scarcity of resources which often led to them thinking the medical practice carried out was “poor quality.”
In comparison, the students from HIC experienced intensive clinical involvement and received advanced medical, technological education.
We concluded that both of these experiences are valuable and necessary to become competent, resourceful and globally active medical professions and therefore medical student elective experiences should be optimised for better outcome in New Zealand health system.
The implications of our study were the following:
At present our medical school only allows a small proportion of students to go overseas in their 5th year, as their selective. If we allowed students to go overseas in both 5thand 6th year (i.e. selective and elective), we would have more opportunity to experience both LMIC and HIC health system. When the medical programme is reinvigorated in the near future, this will be improved and about two-thirds of students will be able travel overseas in their 5th year.
Apart from the university website with past elective reports, medical school already provides an information booklet, they require students to have a meeting with a supervisor beforehand, interview after the elective and also a report at the end.
However, these could be enhanced and if the medical school supported us even more it could potentially optimise the elective experiences. They could prepare us with courses, more financial support and appropriate recommendations of destinations.
Pre-elective workshops customised for each country group may also be helpful, especially LMIC. A lot of students believe that when they go to a LMIC, they will be able to offer their skills and knowledge but what they don’t think about is the fact that they could take more things for themselves than what they give, which could potentially disrupt the environment in the hospital.
Therefore to help students prepare better for the overseas elective, the medical schools could incorporate more education on global health from very early on of our medical curriculum. This has already been implanted in many other universities around the world such as Johns Hopkins and Emory University. The reinvigorated programme will include more of global health in our new curriculum and this should be continued to produce more medical graduates with broader understanding of global health and medicine.
Apart from sharing my work, I enjoyed attending other presentations and meeting other health professionals from New Zealand and Australia. I enjoyed in particular the presentations by Phillippa Poole and William Hart about UMAT being a poor predictor compared to academic achievement and future medical student selection, respectively. It was found that UMAT still does not have enough evidence to prove that it is a good predictor for students’ performance in New Zealand medical programmes, in both Auckland and Otago universities. As for the future medical student selection process, it was recognised that the current systems are already “pretty good” but the most important four factors for becoming a good doctor are interpersonal skills, clinical safety, empathy and resilience.
Being at the medical education conference was interesting and informative to say the least. I am very grateful towards AUMSA for supporting me to attend this event and I would like to encourage more students to attend this conference in the future.
Rebecca White– Mental Health Law Conference 2012, Wellington, NZ
Inequalities aside, the high level of scholarly acumen from the presenters made for a head-spinning information injection to my hitherto small collection of knowledge. A highlight learning point for me was that medical meanings and legal meanings differ, and when encountering the law as a medical clinician one ought to defer to the legal definitions. This was expatiated by the famous case of Mr H. The Mental Health Tribunal, consisting of a psychiatrist, a lawyer, and a layperson, found Mr H to be no longer ‘mentally disordered’ in clinical terms, so deemed it inappropriate to continue him on compulsory status treatment. A re-hearing by the high court was appealed, and the Court of Appeal found that the piece of law that says ‘Mentally disordered and fit to be released’ implied that if one is not fit to be released then this implies that one is mentally disordered – ‘the second limb [fit to be released] directs the first limb [mentally disordered]’. They used a ‘unitary’ meaning of the word ‘and’ (as opposed to conjunctive or disjunctive). The judge ruled that ‘mentally disordered’ was a legal definition not a clinical definition, and further stipulated that ‘Clinicians should be able to distinguish criminal behaviour from abnormal.’
This was just the first presentation. The range of presenters’ professional backgrounds included lawyers (including DHB legal counsel), lecturers, psychiatrists, and a district court judge. It was a richly informative day and I am glad I went. I’d like to thank AUMSA travel fund for sponsoring my attendance.
Qiliang Liu – Universitas21 Undergraduate Research Conference 2012, Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan
Taking the theme of “Connecting to the future”, the nature of the conference has perfectly corresponded to my research proposal to revolutionise conventional treatments for patients with degenerative diseases. Having had the opportunity to put forth my current research on the cellular reprogramming technology in providing improved treatment, or even a cure, in the context of patients with type 1 diabetes, it was delightful to be offered feedback and ideas from many like-minded experts and clinicians in the area of regenerative medicine. As much of the opinions offered had been original yet nevertheless constructive, they have thus enriched me with yet more ideas on how my research could be optimised to more efficiently yield meaningful results. Overall, in the five days of conference, I have gained immeasurably from being able to showcase my research in front of like-minded students from 21 research-intensive universities around the world. The opportunity of networking with others at an academic level considerably added to my knowledge and I had also been able to contribute many ideas for related studies, which, taken together, have made this conference a particularly rewarding experience. The chance to meet professionals from the expertise of regenerative medicine and to be updated with cutting-edge information on the cellular reprogramming technology had been the highlight of my experience.
Through this invaluable opportunity, I have been once more inferred the ultimate purpose of research, which, after so many long hours of hard work – would all come down to the ultimate goal of providing for the people, and the world, with a better future. Overall, the way by which the conference underlined my current research proposal has hence shown me the increasing significance of research in the field of medicine, which has further reassured my decision in pursuing research in regenerative medicine as a life-long career. I owe my sincere acknowledgements to the Auckland International Office, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences and AUMSA for granting me this outstanding conference opportunity, and indeed for their valuable support and encouragements all the way along.
Matthew Haydock – Royal Australasian College of Surgeons Annual Scientific Congress – Kuala Lumpur 2012
The theme for the conference was the making of a surgeon. This made for some very interesting plenary sessions covering communication, collaboration, professionalism and teamwork. To be honest I was expecting these to be superficial and not offer any real content. However I was surprised and impressed with the critical approach taken to these sessions. The speakers pointed out the deficiencies in their profession and how they can be addressed, it was encouraging to see a group of professionals critically discussing their behaviour.
There were programs for all surgical specialties. This made it difficult to decide which sessions to go to without having a specialty of my own. Despite this I managed to find some interesting sessions. The content of the conference was aimed at qualified and training surgeons, accordingly at times I felt remarkably uninformed. On the other side of the coin it gave me more context we are taught as medical students. It was always nice when I actually knew what was going on, giving some validation to my time spent at Grafton campus.
While all of the above was great, my purpose of being there was to present. Leading up to my presentation time I was surprised that my nerves were yet to kick in. As I got called up to present I though I had managed to dodge the nervousness and I would be able to deliver my talk confidently just like I had practiced. I stepped up to the microphone, looked up and saw all the people out there that knew so much more than me. I was nervous.
I thought I could share three lessons from my own experience and that of watching others.
- Preparation is absolutely essential. When the nerves set in for me I could rely on my preparation. I had no notes to fumble through as I knew what I had to say and I knew what was on my slides. The talks that were poorly prepared really stood out, they read off their notes, made mistakes and the message of what they had to say was lost. Thankfully this was not me, as it did not look fun.
- Put on a show. Those that are well prepared get their message across, but when this message is delivered in the same way be every presenter you forget the message (and the presenter) as soon as you walk out of the room. The ones you do remember are the ones that deliver their message very poorly or very well. Aim for the latter.
- Anticipate your questions. I don’t propose that you should have all the answers but try to consider the questions you might be asked. This will save the awkward moment of being called out when you have tried to fluff your way through a question that you were entirely unprepared for. Remember if you don’t know it is okay to say so. I think the most painful thing I saw all week was people getting grilled for poor answering of questions.
In the end, despite my nerves, I was happy with my talk and I look forward to any opportunity to do it again. I learnt a lot from the experience and would like to thank those who have contributed. Firstly to the University of Auckland, I think the University of Auckland summer studentship program is a great initiative. I think that clinicians need to be involved with (or at least aware of) how new knowledge is created and early exposure to research is a fantastic way to nurture this. Secondly thank you to AUMSA and the AUMSA travel fund. Supporting students to attend and present at scientific meetings can only encourage participation in research. Finally and importantly, I would like to thank my supervisors and co-authors with a special mention to Professor John Windsor and Mr Anubhav Mittal. Their advice and mentoring has meant I have learnt a huge amount and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Carissa Herbert – AMSA Convention 2012
The academic sessions start at 9am, featuring a wide range of fantastic, inspiring and insightful experts in their own field – medical or otherwise. Highlights included Michael Malthouse, the most successful AFL coach in Australia, Simon O’Connor of the medical student bible ‘Talley and O’Connor’, Professor John Murtagh of ‘Murtagh’s General Practice and former Australian Prime Minister the Honorable Kevin Rudd. The break-out sessions were just as useful – the most memorable being a practical session with Dr. Sally Cockburn about the potential issues around counselling patients in abusive relationships and keeping your own relationships healthy while having a career in medicine.
The academic sessions also involve a debating and research component where students are welcome to sit in and watch the best public speakers in the country debate a wide range of controversial topics from ‘whether stereotypes are useful in medicine’ to ‘whether people with a BMI over 30 should be taxed’. The research sessions are a great opportunity to sit down and listen to the fantastic work that our colleagues in Australia are doing across the country.
Add to this practical clinical sessions, issue and advocacy panel discussions and the social events and you have a rousing week that if nothing else reminds you why you love medicine.
The AMSA Convention 2012, held in Perth, was by far the best student run event I have ever had the privilege of attending. One thousand students, one week, over a million dollars in budget – I will be surprised if I am ever involved in such an inspirational, thought provoking and entertaining conference again. Thank you sincerely for assisting my attendance.
Tara Clinick – NZMSA Conference 2012: Catalyst for Change
After completing the race, we went back to our accommodation, the Sudima Hotel, to get ready for a Cocktail night. We took the gondola up through the Redwoods Forest, and had the option of lugeing down to the venue, Skyline Rotorua. There was champagne on arrival, and a wonderful evening was had by all.
On Saturday morning, the conference sessions began after the opening Powhiri. Delegates were addressed by Professor John Fraser and Dr Lyndy Matthews. After morning tea, breakout sessions began where individuals had indicated their preference ahead of the conference from an option of six different speakers. I attended an inspiring talk given by Dr Robin Youngson about putting hearts back into health care, a talk focussed on life and wellbeing by Dr Mangala Wettasinghe, and Dr Barbara Hochstein talking about founding the Aratika trust. Further keynote speakers were Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman, and Dr Leo Celi. Overall the day was extremely successful and interesting, with a wide range of thought-provoking topics being spoken about.
On Saturday night was the Southern Cross formal dinner held at the Blue Baths in the Government Gardens. It was an impeccable dinner with an address from Dr Ian McPherson and presentation of NZMSA awards.
Further breakout sessions began on Sunday morning focussed on health equity, clinical leadership, medicine and humanities, taking action, clinical skills and life and wellbeing. I attended a though-provoking talk given by Genevieve Bois, a member of the International Federation of Medical Students Association about overseas electives. In the afternoon I attended an enjoyable advanced suturing workshop. After closing addresses were finished, it was time to pack up and leave Rotorua after an amazing weekend. It was a pleasure to represent The University of Auckland at this event and meet so many incredible students from other medical schools.
Karen Chiu – NZMSA Conference 2012: Catalyst for Change
Camelia Soo – NZMSA Conference 2012: Catalyst for Change
Activities were held for us almost as soon as the delegates step foot onto Rotorua soil. We started the Conference fun with an AMASing race, held at the Agrodome. Delegates were divided into groups of 8-10 and ran, crawled, sweated through hills, muds, mazes, chased and herded sheep and took part in several adrenaline pumping rides before heading to Skyline Rotorua for a panaromic gondola ride (after a good shower of course!). It was then a luge ride down to the Cocktail venue, a cozy white marquee in the middle of a Redwood forest where delegates were welcomed officially.
The first day of the Conference consisted of several keynote speeches and breakout sessions. Students were reminded why it was essential to be catalyst for change to lead the future medical workforce. One of the breakout sessions I attended was by Dr. Robin Youngson, an anaesthetist at Auckland Hospital. His was a powerful session that reminded us of how compassion and genuine care for patients can have a deep impact on patients’ life and recovery. Furthermore, he maintained that having emotional connectedness with patients is not as harmful as some think it is. The second day of the Conference saw delegates having more inspiring breakout sessions and also the opportunity to revise suturing skills. I had the opportunity to attend Genevieve Bois’s breakout session, entitled ‘Are good intentions enough?’. She touched on the very relevant issue of medical students seeking experiences in low resource areas and prompted us to think of the reasons why so many students were interested in experiences in developing countries: was it really to help? Or merely just to be cool?
The talks were inspiring and stimulating and there was a lot of opportunity to mix and mingle with students from the University of Otago, Australia and Fiji! We were treated to a very luxurious dinner at Rotorua’s Blue Baths and it party at Lava bar after that!
I would like to extend my warmest gratitude to the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences and especially AUMSA for providing me with the travel fund that contributed to my registration fee.
Abhinav Jain – ANZAHPE Conference 2011
It was appropriate to put forth my views at the ANZAHPE Conference 2011 in Alice Springs, Australia. The conference provided a good platform for discussion regarding socially accountable health professional education. The need of the hour is to select, train and retain the best possible talent for a general surgical career as there is a dire need for general surgeons to meet the healthcare needs of the ageing population. I argued the causes and made some suggestions as to how female medical students can be persuaded to adopt a general surgical career. It is an accepted fact that women constitute about 50% or even more of the recruitment pool of medical school graduates and hence career choices has a large impact on recruitment into general surgery. The emphasis throughout the discussion centred on how this surgical faculty which has traditionally been male dominated can be made more attractive to female medical students to meet future healthcare needs of the community.
Though I attended only one day of the conference, but I gained immensely from being able to present my research paper in front of distinguished health professional educators from across Australia, New Zealand and abroad. I also had the opportunity to attend other presentations by excellent health researchers and educators. It considerably added to my knowledge and I was able to imbibe some original ideas on various topics. The presentations were mostly focused around the themes of Indigenous health, Cultural Safety, Global Connections, Environment and Health, Ethics and Education etc. The conference provided a good opportunity for networking aiming at exchange of views for future research.
I would like to express my gratitude to University of Auckland-Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences and AUMSA for their valuable support and encouragement.