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Conflict and Open Access: A Tale of Two Conferences

For medical students interested in advocacy, action and debate, the last weekend of Easter provided all three in buckets at two of the biggest conferences on the UK Medical Student calendar.  The BMA Medical Students Conference and the Medsin Conference ‘CONFLICTED’ left all who attended feeling excited that WE CAN DO MORE!

The BMA's national conference

In Nottingham, medical student representatives from all over the UK attended the BMA Medical Students Conference, commencing with a rousing and thought provoking speech from Clare Gerada, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, on where we go now with the Health and Social Care reforms in the UK.  Although many important and well-considered motions were debated, it was pertinent that, in the same week that the Wellcome Trust announced that all their research would now be Open Access, the Medical Students Conference voted unanimously to support the Student Statement on Open Access as outlined by the Right to Research Coalition. It is really exciting that Medical Students are bringing this issue to the wider profession, and students can, in the coming months, lobby their universities and the government to make research accessible to all.  Any students interested in getting more involved, please do get in touch for information about forthcoming work on Open Access, including a forthcoming conference organized by the Right to Research Coalition in July.

BMA co-chairs and Medsin National Coordinators L-R Elly Pilavachi (BMA), Dan Knights (Medsin), Marion Matheson (BMA), Felicity Jones (Medsin)

A bit further south at King’s College London, Medsin’s CONFLICTED conference was also a vibrant and exciting weekend.  From the moment Dr Robin Coupland launched into his opening speech, it was clear CONFLICTED was going to pose some challenging issues, and that these were issues that the Medsin network were not only prepared to grapple with, but also take beyond the conference, and take action on. The weekend provided ample opportunity for engagement, focused as it was around the themes of conflict, health, and humanitarian aid, and the four plenaries set their complex interaction in sharp relief.  Newcomers and experienced Medsin-ers alike were fully engaged with the issues discussed, as evidenced by the quality and quantity of questions both during and between plenary sessions and workshops.

Medsin’s CONFLICTED conference

And Medsin not only engaged, but also took action. Hundreds of attendees signed postcards against the arms trade, and petitions and letters to their MPs on multiple related issues, and a large group headed to the Millennium bridge to put their Hands Up for Healthcare Workers, as part of Merlin’s campaign on the issue. 

Many signed up to one of Medsin’s amazing activities; topic-specific groups, such as Student Stop Aids, or Healthy Planet (working on climate change).

All-in-all the weekend provided delegates with insight into many aspects of global health inequity, and the opportunity to take forward specific issues such as the Hands Up for Healthcare Workers campaign, which has now been officially launched within Medsin. The next conference, focusing on Maternal & Child Health, will take place on the 20-21st October in Warwick.

All of the plenary sessions and the keynote address were professionally filmed by Kwatsi and are available online here!

It is clear that at both conferences, making contact with students from all over the UK was as important as the topics themselves. The issues can seem insurmountable, and one can feel unsure where to start.  Learning how to work on these issues together, like a jigsaw puzzle, will serve us well in tackling the inequalities we seek to address, as well as in our careers as doctors.


Felicity Jones
Karin Purshouse

Felicity Jones is a fourth year medical student at King’s College London. She is currently Joint National Coordinator of Medsin-UK, along with Dan Knights. Follow her on twitter: @faejones.

Karin Purshouse is a final year medical student at Newcastle University and was Chair of the British Medical Association’s Medical Students Committee (BMA MSC) 2010-11.  She has been involved with Sexpression and Medsin since 2006, and was part of the Medsin-UK delegation to the International Federation of Medical Student Associations (IFMSA) August Meeting 2011.


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