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Passion and compassion in abundance as medical students meet

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The plenary hall was hot and stuffy; people sat still while sweat dripped from their foreheads; it was 35 degrees and the air conditioning had turned off at midnight.

Yet, even after nine-and-a-half hours of heated debate, even at 2:30 in the morning, the 1000 delegates in the room sat focused and concentrated on the task at hand.

These delegates attended from 117 countries, and it was their duty to represent 1.2 million medical students worldwide.

I am fortunate to have just returned from sweltering Taipei, where 16 Australian delegates represented the Australian Medical Students’ Association at the 2014 International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA) August General Assembly (GA). IFMSA unites medical students worldwide to collaborate and lead initiatives that will have a positive impact on the communities we serve.

Australian delegates truly immersed themselves in the GA.

AMSA brought three important policies that it successfully shepherded through, on foreign aid, drug reform, and the social determinants of health.

AMSA delegates also ran a pre-GA workshop titled ‘Code Blue’. The workshop aimed to empower students to become advocates in the field mental health space, while also providing necessary background training in student mental health, advocacy and leadership.

AMSA won the award for ‘Best Project Presentation’ for the AMSA Academy course – ‘Global Academy’.

This online short course consists of seven modules, and aims to supplement traditional medical education in global health. The course includes written content, lectures from experts in the field, and online quizzes. It covers topics such as global health inequities, resource allocation, health policy and delivery.

To recall just a single memory would be to grossly understate the breadth of the General Assembly experience.

These are just a selection of some of the highlights and memorable moments experienced by AMSA delegates:

·        exposure to the experience of different health systems, particularly those that differ so significantly from our own. For example, a delegate who studies medicine in Kenya is expected to not only work autonomously as soon as she finishes medical school, but anticipates the awful experience of having to frequently turn away severely ill patients that simply cannot afford treatment;

·        having the unique opportunity to learn about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by listening to representatives from both delegations share their intimate personal experiences. Later in the week, the whole room rose to their feet as a joint position statement was read on behalf of the Israeli and Palestinian delegations, condemning violence and human rights abuses from both sides, and calling for peace. It was then followed by a minute’s silence to mourn the victims and the suffering on both sides;

·        the smiles around the room when an Australian male delegate hopped down the runway of the ‘Miss Medicine’ beauty pageant. He wore a kangaroo onesie, and carried a sign reading: WOMAN ARE MORE THEN THEIR LOOKS;

·        the heartfelt video statement made by the African region on the recent Ebola outbreak, their experiences, and the effect it was having on their communities.

Even though we all came from different backgrounds and spoke different languages, ultimately we are all medical students, and all care deeply about the health of the communities we serve.

Jessica Dean is the President of the Australian Medical Students’ Association. Jessica is a 6th year Medicine/Law student at Monash University. She is currently completing an Honours Project in Bioethics at The Alfred. Follow on Twitter @AMSAPresident or @yourAMSA

The link for AMSA Academy can be found here: http://academy.amsa.org.au/