It can be difficult to step out of your bubble when you're deep into clinical placements and stressing about your next exam. But it's always worthwhile to take the time to look beyond your studies and get involved in other medical initiatives, as Lamia Hamidovic, a fifth year medical student at Imperial College, has found through her volunteering work in global public health.
Lamia is the secretary for her university's branch of the national network, Students for Global Health. She joined the society after intercalating to complete a BSc in Global Health, which gave her insight into the health issues afflicting disadvantaged communities worldwide – as well as inspiring her to do what she can to help communities in need of access to better quality care.
'It was an eye-opening year. You learn about how people around the world are dealing with simple issues that, for us, are so easily treated – like malaria – which they're just not able to address due to a lack of availability and access to necessary resources.
'Now, my work for Students for Global Health involves attending meetings, taking minutes, promoting events – for example, we organise career events where we recruit experts from within the field of global health. Our aim is to motivate students from both medical and non-medical fields to get involved; we need people from all walks of life to take part to help fulfill our vision for a fair and just world in which equity in health is a reality for all.'
Lamia has also started volunteering for Health Poverty Action, a London-based charity which works with disadvantaged groups in Africa, Asia and America to improve access to and quality of healthcare. Throughout 2018, she will work on the organisation's As One campaign, raising awareness of communities with poor access to healthcare and the doctors struggling to provide them with adequate medical attention.
'I came across Health Poverty Action through social media; there's a close network in the UK of like-minded people and organisations. It was exciting hearing about the campaign; it aligns closely with my own passions, so I was really excited to get involved. The campaign is currently in its developmental stages, but I'm hoping to get involved a lot more in advocacy and fundraising, plus working with doctors and the medical committee leading the initiative.'
We need passionate students from all backgrounds to help make great things happen in the future.
The As One campaign is a show of solidarity among doctors and other health professionals working in some of the world's most deprived and marginalised communities. As the campaign develops, it will raise funds for much-needed health equipment in under-resourced regions; it will also enable doctors in the UK and overseas to share their expertise through training, mentoring, support groups and exchanges, working together to tackle critical health issues.
Lamia urges any medical students thinking about getting involved in this or a similar initiative to do so.
'Especially with anything global health-related, it's really important to get involved. As students, we have energy, time and passion which can be utilised to do great things, and and we can become advocates for change. As the doctors of the future, becoming educated about global health issues can further aid not only the identification of disparities within our own healthcare system, but also the approach needed to fill these gaps.'
Although study can sometimes be all-encompassing, Lamia does her best to fit her activism around her busy undergraduate schedule.
'It's always a challenge, as anyone would find,' she says. 'You just have to work out what's best for you, and prioritise. Having started our year in clinical specialties, during the O&G attachment I had a difficult rotation of night shifts, which meant I couldn't be as involved with Students for Global Health as I wanted to, but I stayed in touch with my contacts, communicated with the committee and found other ways to be proactive.'
Global health, and getting involved with organisations such as Health Poverty Action, can provide opportunities for students and doctors which they might not otherwise experience in day-to-day study and practice.
Global health is so relevant to every part of medicine, whether abroad or in any part of London or the UK.
'With global health, you never know where you will end up. It's so relevant to every part of medicine, whether abroad or in any part of London or the UK. It encompasses social factors, mental and physical health – even within the NHS we have marginalised communities experiencing problems related to co-morbidity and chronic health, and it's so important to understand how to manage patients' health and lifestyle.
'Plus if you've always wanted to travel, getting involved in global health initiatives is really valuable because you can make real changes here and there. And you can make a significant impact to people's lives in very simple ways. With small changes you can make a big difference. And we need manpower to be able to get this done!'
If you wish to get involved with Health Poverty Action and the As One campaign, contact Jessica Doyle, Partnerships Manager.