Guest post by Daniel Korpal, Meds ’19, on behalf of the 2016 Health and Human Rights Conference
For the past 15 years, medical students at Queen’s have been involved in facilitating a critical conversation on health and human rights. This year we are looking forward to carrying on this tradition and exploring the intersection of health and security as human rights in a diversity of contexts. We hope to expand on the successes of previous years and aim to engage with faculty, students from all departments at Queen’s and community members. Increasing diversity in attendance at the conference has been a priority for our executive planning committee – which includes students from various professional and academic graduate and undergraduate programs – diversity breeds wisdom. We are also very excited to be funding a contingent of medical students from across Ontario as a result of a generous contribution from the Ontario Medical Association. These factors, in conjunction with the Queens’175th anniversary celebrations, uniquely position this year’s conference to involve a broad population and foster an environment of compassionate dialogue and catalyze change regarding Human Rights here at Queen’s and around the world.
However, there can be challenges. As a medical student, it can be difficult to actively engage with these topics. As with practicing health care workers, the demands on our time can be menacing and it is tempting to leave such issues to politicians and pundits. However, I would encourage you to consider the privileged role of rehabilitation therapists, doctors and nurses. Time and again public opinion polls have ranked health as one of — if not the most important — priority in our society. As a result, we, as current and future health practitioners, have a right to be heard. Bear in mind a right is composed of two things, an entitlement and an obligation. Therefore, an onus is placed on us to engage in these uncomfortable questions. We need to consider how contextual factors like race, culture and security affect the health of individuals in Canada and beyond. In the words of our Dean, “It’s not an administrator or politician’s problem. It’s up to health professionals to take charge …” (Dr. Richard Reznick, Welcome Speech to the Class of 2019 Aug 24, 2015).
The first step is dialogue. On October 21st and 22nd of this year the Health and Human Rights Conference will bring together policy experts and practitioners to share ideas and challenge current and past approaches to providing health and security in the midst of conflict in our communities, country and globe. We hope you will join us!
Special Thanks to Dr. Reznick for his support of the Health and Human Rights Conference.