By Fiona Somers (Wednesday, Feb 23, 2011)
The not-so-simple act of surviving medical school can be exhausting, easily wearing on the ideals of even the most dedicated human rights advocates. Third year clerkships have been particularly grueling, so I’ve spent much of the year looking forward to PHR’s National Conference as an opportunity to recharge my batteries—a chance to be inspired by luminaries in the field of health and human rights, as well as by the work of my fellow students (aka future luminaries). When the conference finally arrived last weekend, it provided just the jolt I had been looking for.
The fun began early with a pub night. By the end of the evening, I had met students from as far away as Texas, learned something new about connective tissue diseases from a researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital, and even received career advice from one of the conference speakers—all while sipping delicious cocktails and enjoying good music. It was a great way to jump-start the weekend and to arrive at the conference knowing there would be familiar faces to greet.
The conference itself provided all the inspiration I had been looking for. The all-star presentation line-up included a keynote by Dr. Howard Zucker, who described the power of even small ideas to change the face of care for the underserved if we persist in pursuing their implementation. He was followed by Professor Stephen Marks, who expounded upon the notion of a right to health in the context of the current American political climate. The panels that transitioned the conference from morning to afternoon included:
- Motivational advice from PHR Past President Dr. Holly Atkinson about our role in bending the arc of history toward justice;
- Moving first-hand testimony about the conflicts in Chechnya and Darfur from Dr. Khassan Baiev and Dr. Mohammed Ahmed Eisa, respectively, along with commentary by Dr. Michael VanRooyen, Dr. Sondra Crosby, and PHR Deputy Director Susannah Sirkin about how American medical professionals can assist in the face of atrocities;
- Practical advice from resident Sohil Sud, fellows Stephen Morris and Parveen Parmar, and Oxfam America advisor Sarah Kalloch about how to pursue a commitment to human rights throughout medical training;
- Explanation by Dr. Ramin Asgary and lawyer Christy Fujio of the role medical affidavits can play in ensuring that torture survivors receive asylum;
- A primer from PHR Deputy Director Richard Sollom on the power of epidemiological research to hold perpetrators of human rights abuses accountable;
- Tips for developing advocacy initiatives based on clinical problems and taking these initiatives to the press, by Dr. Gloria White-Hammond, ABIM Foundation Director of Communications John Held, and PHR Senior Press Officer Megan Prock.
Click here to learn more about the speakers.
(In the next post, recap of the awards ceremony and Sujal Parikh Memorial Education Expo…)