ANZAHPE – OTTAWA 2016 Joint Conference
19-23 March 2016
Perth Convention Centre, Perth, WA
This is a report/reflection on my recent attendance at the Ottawa conference held jointly with the ANZAPHE in Perth, Australia. I went to a couple of symposia which had me thinking about diversity. The first was on whether patient interests might be better served by a national licensing exam. There were speakers from the United States, the U.K. And Australia. A key issue raise was that national exams will perhaps set a low minimum standard of achievement and focus on that which is easily measurable fro example, facts and knowledge. There was acceptance that how students actually deal with patients might be less well assessed. Ronald Harden argued that on the basis of current evidence there is little if any justification for such an exam but certainly in the UK it is happening and as the president of the GMC said it is not a question of if but how. This made me think we should be thinking about how we can ensure that whatever is developed includes diversity and how students manage this.
The second sessions was on student selection and I was struck by how we want to try and ensure that students can tolerate ambiguity and uncertainty and yet we seem not to be able to manage this in ourselves. The symposium was entirely UK focused and from my perspective there appeared not to have been much thought given to issues of diversity although issues of equality were considered. A few patients had been consulted about what makes a good doctor but I was not clear about how these patients had been selected. I remained unsure whether those working had asked themselves how their own perspectives and biases were influencing the research they were driving. It seemed to me that lots of data is being collected about recruitment without considering that students don’t stand still – hopefully they are developing and changing in response to their experiences. It felt as though we were trying to create a certain world and if we just had enough data we would have no future bad doctors. If only life was that simple.
There were various presentations on cultural competency and I was reminded about why I have never felt comfortable using the term. It encouraged me to revisit the debates about the terms cultural competence and diversity. Will leave that for another day!
The final plenary on finding the place of cultural competency in a medical curriculum was mostly a personal account by the speaker Suzanne itama of her experience at one university in New Zealand. She did not appear to relate this to the wider international context or how her stance and work linked in with what is happening elsewhere in the context of her presentation. I don’t think I missed this from inattention. However it did help me consider what our focus might be for our upcoming meeting on 6 May 2016.
I am hopeful that over the next few months we can consider how we at Dimah can constructively add to the debates above and try and ensure that diversity is considered as an integral part of the process from the outset through all the changes that go in medical education.