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The physicians and students sit at a table. Two microphones sit on the table.

(Left to right) Dr. Jared Bullard, Dr. Nabiha Faisal, and medical students Filza Zohair, Yeyoung Won and Jules Perez take part in the panel session at the conference.

Med students hold EDI conference, create space to ‘share experiences’

March 23, 2023 — 

The Manitoba Medical Students’ Association (MMSA) organized its first-ever conference focused on equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in health care.

More than 100 students and physicians registered to take part in the full-day event that took place on UM Bannatyne campus last month. It was co-sponsored by Doctors Manitoba.

The morning focused on the experiences of health-care providers and featured a keynote lecture by Dr. Marcia Anderson, vice-dean, Indigenous health, social justice and anti-racism, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, who spoke about dissecting the culture of medicine and how it can be more inclusive. A panel, featuring two faculty members and three medical students, discussed topics such as the barriers they’ve faced in becoming physicians and what’s gained from EDI.   

In the afternoon, conference participants attended breakout sessions where patients from various communities shared their personal experiences of implicit bias and anti-racial behaviors in health care. Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba, Rainbow Resource Centre, Main Street Project, and Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre took part.

Portrait of the two students.

Second-year medical students Jacie Liu and Mirha Zohair helped organize the conference.

“We wanted to give a platform for students to hear voices from all different kinds of people,” said Jacie Liu, a second-year Max Rady College of Medicine student and the MMSA’s Global Health Liaison Sr.

“When you have a space for people to share their experiences, it makes people feel supported, like you’re not the only one going through this and you don’t have to do it alone. If we do it together – change is possible.”

Liu and Mirha Zohair, a second-year medical student and MMSA’s equity, diversity and inclusivity representative, organized the event along with an executive committee. The idea for an EDI conference at UM came to them from their classmate, Harram Memon, who’d heard about similar events at other Canadian medical schools.  

One issue Zohair has been focusing on in her MMSA role is the concept of a minority tax, which she said is when minorities engage in EDI work and end up taking on more of the work than their colleagues. The conference is one way to help address this issue, she said.

“Today’s conference showed that a lot of people are interested in learning about these issues, so hopefully now that work can be spread out amongst all of us,” Zohair said. “As the work is spread amongst all of us, hopefully it will be more effective and be more impactful because there are more people behind it.”

Nolan De Leon, a first-year medical student, said he attended the conference because he believes EDI should be one of the absolute pillars of what medical professionals do.

“I want to make sure I’m providing the best care I can to everyone that comes into the clinic regardless of privilege, regardless of where they come from, regardless of orientation,” De Leon said. “It’s important that we treat people like people.”

Tooba Razi, a first-year medical student, said that what she was hoping to take away from the event was how to be a better ally and how she can use her privilege to help others.

“It’s great seeing this initiative in Manitoba,” Razi said. “It’s great seeing my classmates and peers so passionate about this.”

The organizers said they have plans to hold the conference again next year.

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