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Medical students urged to be strong advocates

Canada’s medical students need to be strong advocates for a better health care system.

That was the main message delivered by Canadian Medical Association president Chris Simpson in his address to the annual meeting of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students (CFMS).

In his speech which was followed by a lengthy question and answer period, Simpson stressed the concept of students as advocates but combined this with his well-honed messages on the importance of developing a national strategy on seniors care and a segue into the importance of the students looking after their own health and wellbeing.

“Student leadership is really, really important,” Simpson said in his opening remarks, adding that “the advocacy sensibility of physicians needs to be brought out by your generation.”

Asked later about the limits on physician advocacy, Simpson said the students should take the view that “anything that impacts my patients’ health is important to me.”

He applauded the medical students of today for having a more advanced sense of the physicians’ duty to society than in the past.

Simpson’s remarks coincided with the release by the CMA of a new online mini-module on advocacy presented by past-president John Haggie. The module is being made available to CMA members including medical students as a benefit of membership.

Talking about seniors’ care, Simpson said “if we can fix seniors care we can fix a lot of what is wrong with the health care system.”

“We (the CMA) believe that seniors care can be a ballot box issue,” he said in reference to next year’s federal election.

He said the emphasis on seniors’ care is an example of how the CMA is listening to its members and the public and advocating on issue of importance to them.

“If we want to be influential as an organization we need to serve the hearts and minds of Canadians,” he said.

Asked about balancing advocacy activities with spending time with family and maintaining personal health, Simpson said he had no definite answer. But he did note that he was hoping to destigmatize the issue of physician health by personally being the subject of a psychological study of the impact of leadership on health and wellbeing.

Simpson urged the students to become more involved with the CMA and said he would like to see more integration between the CFMS and the CMA.

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