Symposium gets students outside the bubble of medical school

(Edmonton) Medical students at the University of Alberta played host today to some big names in health care for their first Health-Care Symposium.

The event featured the Canadian Medical Association’s President, Jeff Turnbull; the Alberta Medical Association’s President, P.J. White; the CEO of Alberta Health Services, Chris Eagle; and former deputy minister of Albert Health and Wellness and business professor from the U of A, Roger Palmer.

“This symposium gives students an exposure to the health-care environment that exists mainly in Alberta but also throughout Canada as well,” said Aisling Campbell, symposium organizer who got the idea from another school. “I hope it will give students that exposure to the politics that surrounds health care and get them outside the bubble of medical school.”

The speakers presented about primary and chronic care in the province. Each had their ideas on ways to improve primary care in Alberta and for the most part it is an integrated approach.

The floor was then opened for a discussion about this topic and questions were fielded by all four speakers from students, residents and faculty who filled the Allard Family Theatre for the symposium.

Max Levine, a second-year medical student, was there and said it was a great learning experience that could help in making a decision about his career path.

“It makes me feel a great deal of responsibility,” said Levine. “It’s beyond what you’re passionate about; it’s thinking, ‘what [area of medicine] is it our social responsibility to go in to?’ I get a sense that it’s our responsibility to go in to primary care and I’m feeling that more and more.”

Philip Baker, dean of the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry and moderator for the event, is excited to see students engaging in this type of experience.

“I think it’s great that this is a student-run project,” said Baker. “They’ve managed to get a really good panel together and we’re discussing an important topic.

“What’s great for us is the fact that we’re leading debates in primary care within the province and our residency program has been assessed as unsurpassed in the country, and we’ve got 40 per cent of our graduates going in to family medicine this year.”

Campbell says her hope is that this symposium will influence her classmates positively as they move towards careers in health care.

“We want to promote leadership and engagement and advocacy among students,” said Campbell. “I think that, by having prominent speakers and issues surrounding health care, that’ll increase student engagement.”

And it’s likely this symposium will continue.

“I think it’s something that could continue in the future, based on different issues happening in health care at the time, just because there has been so many changes to health care recently,” said Campbell.

“I would encourage these to be on a more regular basis,” said Levine.