October 22nd marked the third and last day of the conference, and thus an opportunity for reflection on the work of the Student Task Force. Yet beyond tangible outcomes, I cant help but to reflect most deeply on the process that brought together 12 medical students from around the world to learn about biomedical ethics and health law.
I have no doubt that my knowledge base has benefitted greatly from participating in the conference sessions, and in this Im confident I speak for my peers as well. The presentations I attended were rich and provocative, deepening my understanding of international health policy and practice: I learned about the latest research on the cultural implications of genetic engineering in Israel, the state of unethical malpractice in forensic medicine in the UK, the impact of introducing bioethics curricula in a rural Indian medical school, the need for further cultural safety and competency training for volunteer physicians from any country foreign to their place of work and, almost unfathomably, much more.
For me, the diversity in the backgrounds, perspectives, and professions of the presenters was key: they exposed the extent to which issues in biomedical ethics and health law were similar throughout the world, differing only in how they were shaped by our cultures and the resources at our disposal. At times, the conference poignantly highlighted the recognition that many global issues could not be addressed by any single researcher, health professional, or even country, alone.
For this precise reason, I believe it was the relationships developed between members of the Student Task Force that will be the most significant take-away from this meeting. As a Canadian medical student, its not often that Im able to interact with colleagues from another country, let alone across the globe. Coming together with students from Italy, Portugal, Brazil, Sweden, Switzerland, Indonesia, Macedonia, and the Netherlands made for hilarious dissections of the similarities and differences between our homes, customs, and cultures, and it was these discussions that paved the way for more delicate explorations of the pragmatic?health policy, health outcomes, and the issues in bioethics and health law that were topical in our home countries. I firmly believe that the lessons I learned from my global colleagues are the ones that will shape the way I practice medicine in the future, and our discussions and new friendships have reinforced to me the significance of international collaboration for progress on global issues.
As I begin my marathon journey home, I am struck by the sincerity, motivation, and utter drive to achieve ethical health policy and practice that Ive seen in both my peers and our predecessors. I return with renewed confidence in our increasingly globalized health system: if it serves to unite health professionals across the globe as thoughtful and principled as those that Ive met, I have no doubt that collective, ethical progress in global health is well within reach.