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Five physicians sit behind two tables on a stage. One of them is speaking into a microphone.

[From left to right] Dr. Sheila Peters, Dr. Robert Chase, Dr. Shayne Reitmeier, Dr. Rizqa Sulaiman-Baradien and Dr. Sapna Oberoi take part in the provider panel discussion.

Advocacy at centre of med student-led EDI conference

February 21, 2024 — 

Patient advocacy was the focus of the second annual Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Medical Conference held on Feb. 17 on the Bannatyne campus.

Dr. Gigi Osler speaks at a lectern on stage before a crowd seated at tables.

Dr. Gigi Osler gives the keynote speech.

About 100 students, residents and physicians registered for the event organized by the Manitoba Medical Students’ Association (MMSA) and co-sponsored by Doctors Manitoba.

Tooba Razi, MMSA’s vice-stick EDI Jr. and one of the conference organizers, said the planning committee wanted to focus the event on patient advocacy – especially for underserved and marginalized communities – to expand on what they are learning in their medical education.

“We wanted to organize an event that brought together the ability to be an effective physician advocate, but also listen to our communities, listen to their needs and learn how to best serve them,” said Razi, a second-year Max Rady College of Medicine student. “We wanted to provide a platform and try to see how we could integrate advocacy into our careers from people who have done it.”

Dr. Gigi Osler speaks into a microphone at a lectern.

Dr. Gigi Osler spoke about her journey through health care and politics.

The conference began with a keynote speech by Dr. Gigi Osler, a Canadian senator, assistant professor at the UM medical school and former president of the Canadian Medical Association, who spoke about her journey through health care and politics.

“I am both the past and a little bit of the present – you are the future,” Osler told the medical students in the audience in Brodie Centre atrium. “And it is your leadership and your advocacy that will drive the change that is needed, and I for one, cannot wait to see what you will all accomplish.”

A provider panel featuring five physicians of diverse backgrounds shared their wide-ranging experiences in areas that included queer health, Indigenous health, and immigrant and refugee health. They discussed topics ranging from advocacy in their practice to how to advocate for themselves.

Jun Kim and Tooba Razi pose for photo.

Second-year medical students Jun Kim (left) and Tooba Razi.

Jun Kim, MMSA’s global health liaison Sr. and one of the event organizers, said the conference, and ones like it, help learners become more well-rounded and holistic caregivers.

“This conference is a really good way to bring the medical community together and have that interaction between learners and practicing physicians. Being able to bring everyone under the same roof at the same time is a very special experience and a unique opportunity,” said Kim, a second-year medical student.

In the afternoon, a human library took place. Conference participants broke into seven groups and had the chance to meet and learn from patients and non-physician patient advocates, such as a social worker and a cross-cultural mental health counsellor.

Adhiraj Mukherjee, a second-year medical student, attended the conference because he wanted to learn more about advocacy and EDI.

“Growing up in a rural community and growing up as a BIPOC member of the community, advocacy has been something that’s been part of my life and I think this conference gave me ideas and insight into how to do that better,” Mukherjee said.

Second-year medical student Crystal Chan said she learned a lot at the conference.

“I learned that it can be difficult, and you might think you’re alone in what you’re feeling, but hearing people who are far into their careers say things that resonate with you makes you feel a little less alone and reinforces the journey I’m on,” Chan said.

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