Allyship, building coalitions of the willing, and communities of interest

Yipeng Ge is a medical student in the Class of 2020 at the University of Ottawa

 

Humbled. I am so truly humbled that I get to work with and learn from so many passionate medical students with such strong and refined values, morals, and dedication to their causes.

I am specifically speaking about the shift in the medical learner community to respond more attentively and compassionately; to acknowledge the importance of health and social inequities as they affect and inform our medical education and profession, and — more importantly — how they ultimately affect our current and future patients. Patients do not experience the health system not as an isolated entity (though for many of us in the healthcare field, it can certainly feel as though our assistance is limited to clinic rooms); instead, they are affected by the many determinants of health and wellbeing beyond the direct control and impact of clinicians in the healthcare setting.

We know that burnout can be a result of feeling tied up in healthcare bureaucracy and not being able to affect and impact others through our work in the way we hope. We also know that to tackle burnout, we ought to organize and ask ourselves, “What can we do?” in addressing issues that light a fire in our souls.(1)

I have seen medical students mobilize, joining voices and efforts to be allies on issues of public importance. Learners and advocates, students and professionals, providers and citizens — all at the same time.

In February this year, a national medical student day of action was held on Indigenous Mental Wellness.(2,3) There was a drastic shift in the way we approached our cause, with a consultation process that engaged leaders, clinicians, researchers, and mentors to help guide us in finding an appropriate, constructive, and respectful way to use our collective voices.(4)

Over 70 students from 17 medical schools met with over 60 Members of Parliament, with policy asks developed from over 25 interviews and 40 pages of written guidance and testimony from Indigenous leaders, clinicians, and researchers. We called upon the federal government to 1) Adopt the frameworks and strategies put forward by Indigenous peoples in Canada to guide the federal response to the Indigenous suicide crisis, 2) Undertake a comprehensive review of the current distribution of funding through the National Aboriginal Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy (NAYSPS) in collaboration with Indigenous communities, and 3) Direct Health Canada to re-evaluate which programs and services are funded under the Non-Insured Health Benefits Program (NIHB).

Following the meetings, a joint virtual forum on Indigenous Mental Wellness was held with the Assembly of First Nations health file and Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day to explore a frank conversation around cultural competency training, Indigenous representation in medical schools, and being an ally.(5) Allyship often has a place in building coalitions of the willing and communities of interest to tackle issues through processes that are grounded in collaboration, reciprocity, respect, and capacity building.

Looking back, medical students have demonstrated continued engagement and commitment to speaking about inequity affecting all. Medical students spoke out on two-tiered health care in 2007,(6) Canada’s Access to Medicines Regime for Africa in 2009,(7) increasing diversity in medicine in 2010 and 2011,(8,9) rural access to health care in 2012,(10) proper health human resources in 2013,(11) refugee health cuts in 2013,(12) access to housing in 2014,(13) a cost-effective universal Pharmacare plan in 2014 and 2016,(14,15) and the opioid crisis in 2017.(16)

This work is important as it not only defines us as allies in something greater, but also serves as a testament to the shift in the profession toward being grounded in values of social accountability and responsibility. This is the work that grounds many of us and provides some solace in the chaos of medical training and practice — to never stop learning, to think deeper, to have difficult and uneasy conversations, and to ask, “What can we do?” To do work that fulfills you and provides you with energy and meaning in collaborating with colleagues and patients. To take time to reflect and be inspired to strive for a better and more just world that inherently breeds equity rather than the opposite.

I have seen and heard of great work and changes in the medical learner community — and I, for one, am hopeful and excited for what we can accomplish together. Let’s organize, mobilize, speak up and out, and create and demonstrate a profession and reality we want to see.

 

References

  1. Eisenstein L. To Fight Burnout, Organize. N Engl J Med [Internet]. 2018 Aug 9 [cited 2018 Sep 3];379(6):509–11. Available from: http://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJMp1803771
  2. CNW | Canadian Medical Students Urge The Government of Canada to Strengthen Response to Indigenous Mental Health and Suicide Crisis [Internet]. [cited 2018 Sep 3]. Available from: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/canadian-medical-students-urge-the-government-of-canada-to-strengthen-response-to-indigenous-mental-health-and-suicide-crisis-673773613.html
  3. Ge Y, Yin C. 2018 CFMS National Day of Action Indigenous Mental Wellness, Follow-Up Summary Report [Internet]. [cited 2018 Sep 3]. Available from: https://www.cfms.org/files/day-of-action/2018-day-of-action-report.pdf
  4. Ge Y, Yin C. Approaching health advocacy with a new model for the 2018 National Day of Action - CFMS Annual Review 2018, Indigenous Health. 2018 [cited 2018 Sep 3];9–10. Available from: https://www.cfms.org/resources/annual-review.html
  5. Ge Y. AFN/CFMS Joint Virtual Forum on Indigenous Mental Wellness Summary Document [Internet]. [cited 2018 Sep 3]. Available from: https://www.cfms.org/files/day-of-action/Summary-Report-of-AFN-CFMS-Joint-Virtual-Forum-on-Indigenous-Mental-Wellness.pdf
  6. CNW | Medical Students Divided at the Prospect of Two-Tiered Health Care in Canada [Internet]. [cited 2018 Sep 3]. Available from: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/medical-students-divided-at-the-prospect-of-two-tiered-health-care-in-canada-533643551.html
  7. CNW | Canada’s medical students urge the federal government to deliver on its pledge to Africa [Internet]. [cited 2018 Sep 3]. Available from: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/canadas-medical-students-urge-the-federal-government-to-deliver-on-its-pledge-to-africa-537730991.html
  8. CNW | Future Doctors Call on Politicians to Help Broaden the Make-up of Canada’s Medical Schools [Internet]. [cited 2018 Sep 3]. Available from: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/future-doctors-call-on-politicians-to-help-broaden-the-make-up-of-canadasmedical-schools-539662051.html
  9. CNW | Future doctors visit Parliament Hill to lobby for extended access to Canadian medical schools [Internet]. [cited 2018 Sep 3]. Available from: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/future-doctors-visit-parliament-hill-to-lobby-for-extended-access-to-canadian-medical-schools-507604731.html
  10. CNW | Future Physicians call upon Government of Canada to remove barriers to rural practice [Internet]. [cited 2018 Sep 3]. Available from: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/future-physicians-call-upon-government-of-canada-to-remove-barriers-to-rural-practice-509566211.html
  11. CNW | Future Physicians call upon Government of Canada to Improve Access to Health Human Resources [Internet]. [cited 2018 Sep 3]. Available from: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/future-physicians-call-upon-government-of-canada-to-improve-access-to-health-human-resources-511914971.html
  12. CNW | Canadian Medical Students Speak Up Against Refugee Health Cuts [Internet]. [cited 2018 Sep 3]. Available from: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/canadian-medical-students-speak-up-against-refugee-health-cuts-512593811.html
  13. CNW | Future Physicians call upon Government of Canada to ensure Canadians have access to housing and medical care [Internet]. [cited 2018 Sep 3]. Available from: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/future-physicians-call-upon-government-of-canada-to-ensure-canadians-have-access-to-housing-and-medical-care-513658701.html
  14. CNW | Future Physicians call for Federal Interest in Pharmacare [Internet]. [cited 2018 Sep 3]. Available from: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/future-physicians-call-for-federal-interest-in-pharmacare-516502701.html
  15. CNW | Future Physicians Call for Federal Interest in Pharmacare [Internet]. [cited 2018 Sep 3]. Available from: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/future-physicians-call-for-federal-interest-in-pharmacare-569657161.html
  16. CNW | Future Physicians call upon Government of Canada to strengthen fight against opioid crisis [Internet]. [cited 2018 Sep 3]. Available from: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/future-physicians-call-upon-government-of-canada-to-strengthen-fight-against-opioid-crisis-613575253.html

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