A New Innings: December 2013

A New Innings

by 2014 WAMSS President Sebastian Leathersich

With the spectre of exams looming ahead, it gives me great pleasure to drag myself away from studying and take a moment to reflect on the year that has been, and the year to come; not to mention the pleasure I derive from the thought that as this goes to print, my exams shall be behind me and the summer holidays will have arrived.

To begin, I would like to express my immense gratitude to all those who have been involved in WAMSS this year, in particular the dedicated group of individuals who make up the Committee. The level of professionalism, enthusiasm and dedication shown by my peers and colleagues never fails to amaze me, and gives me great confidence in the future of this profession.

Both personally and on behalf of WAMSS, I would like to pay special thanks to my predecessor, Lee Fairhead, along with her Executive, for the leadership and vision they have shown. Over the past year, Lee has been an incredible asset to UWA’s medical students and has left behind very big shoes to fill – hers is a voice of clarity, fairness and courage. While her graduation is a loss to WAMSS, I’ve no doubt that she will go on to be a strong advocate for her colleagues, her profession and above all her patients.

The 2013 Committee has placed WAMSS in a very strong position coming into 2014, and along with the incoming Executive (Vice-President Internal Melanie Still, Vice-President External Malcolm Franke, Treasurer Sam Carbone, Secretary Sarah Cole) and Committee, I am looking forward to a fantastic year ahead.

The coming year holds a great deal for WAMSS and UWA. I am excited to be welcoming the very first cohort of MD students into the new medical course, which will commence in late January. Over the past few years, WAMSS has been working with the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Science at UWA to ensure that the MD students are entering a degree worthy of the name. As they commence in the near future, these new students have every reason to be looking forward to the four years ahead of them.

We are also very lucky to have some inspiring young individuals heading our social justice initiatives in 2014. A new event is being planned by the Red Party team (watch this space), and one of our Special Interest Groups – Students Passionate About Mental Health – has been awarded a UWA Alumni Fund grant to run a campus-wide mental health initiative called Under The Rug. As the Society continues to expand and evolve, there will be many more exciting developments to share with you over the coming year.

However mixed with this excitement, I remain deeply concerned by ongoing issues affecting our students. As I write this article, two UWA graduates are without internships. Without these jobs, they will be lost to the Australian health system. These students, who have spent years training within the Western Australian health system, will be forced to uproot and move overseas whilst Australia continues to import internationally-trained doctors to fill our workforce shortages.

We are in a position where RMO jobs and registrar training positions are oversubscribed, yet our rural and regional communities are still crying out for more doctors. We know that we need more doctors, and we know where we need them. We also know that the capacity of the postgraduate training system, from intern through to registrar, is not coping with the current number of graduates.

Despite this, in response to a question posed by Lee Fairhead and myself to Dr Kim Hames recently, the Health Minister reaffirmed his support of a third medical school in WA – a project that has shown no credible commitment to genuinely addressing the rural workforce shortage. We will not accept a state government promising funding to a new school when they can provide neither jobs for current UWA graduates and RMOs, nor the postgraduate training positions required to meet the health care needs of our communities.

WAMSS has always been a vocal advocate for our students, and in the context of an increasing number of graduating medical students, we will continue to advocate for internships for all of our graduates, and for positive action to address the pressures on postgraduate training affecting our workforce.

The strength of WAMSS is thanks to the work of the thousands of students who have been involved over the past 68 years, and those who continue to devote their time, energy and passion to student representation and engagement.

As the Committee prepares for 2014, we are all acutely aware of the responsibility we have taken on in advocating for and supporting our students. It is a task that we are deeply committed to, and very much looking forward to undertaking.

Finally, as the academic year draws to close, we thank those who have given of their time over the past 12 months to teach our students and ensure that they continue to receive the highest quality clinical training.

On behalf of WAMSS and the medical students of UWA, I wish you all a healthy, happy and safe festive season – and all the best for the year ahead.