Whenever I go to undergraduate medicine conferences, people ask me what year I am in medical school. I reply, “I’m a premed!” Students and professors alike were very surprised I would want to spend my Saturdays and Sundays doing “academic stuff.”
Other than United States and Canada, most countries have 6 to 7-year undergraduate medical programs. Numerous undergraduate societies of different medical specialties organize conferences and workshops with a small fee. Before studying abroad in the UK, I did not know that conferences were organized because in the United States, the field of medicine is very closed off to the public and there are limited opportunities for premedical students to have hands on experience. During the activities fair, I found out about many of the medical societies and followed them on Facebook. Most of the societies organizes a one day conference throughout the school year. (Tip: People in the UK use Facebook way more than in the US to post events, so be on the look out.)
Going to these conferences also gave me the opportunity to travel around the UK. I went to two conferences in Edinburgh, Sports and Exercise Medicine Conference, and the Doctors Without Borders Humanitarian Aid Conference. I went to two conferences in Glasgow, Emergency Medicine and Pediatric Conference. Finally, the one I went over the weekend was in London, the Global Surgery Conference. I was able to spend extra time in Glasgow and London to visit museums nearby, which were nearly all free, and walk around the city. Surprisingly, when I go to different cities for conferences, I ended up making more friends. I also talked to the students to compare different health care systems. An interesting fact I learned was that surgeons in the UK are titled Mr/Miss/Mrs/Ms because before the mid-19th century, surgeons served as apprentices without formal education. Due to tradition, this has remained ’till this day.
Thirdly, these conferences often invite 5 to 10 speakers, who were all incredibly passionate about their specialties. It gave me new insight into what drew them into their specialties and what are the pros and cons. All the conferences expressed a different aspect of medicine to me and I could describe each in a phrase.
Sports and Exercise Medicine Conference – Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.
Humanitarian Aid Conference – Love of Human Kind.
Emergency Medicine – Never diagnose with statistics; Always listen to the patient’s backstory.
Pediatric – Invest in our Future Generation.
Global Surgery – Expanding surgery worldwide decreases GDP loss.
In addition, the conferences are all discussed in the context of the specific city, so I further understood the underlying social issues in the area.
Finally, most of the conferences organized amazing workshops. The professors/physicians taught me how to suture, to use laparoscopic technology (pin-hole surgery), to perform airway management.
Overall, the passionate physicians and hands on activities continually confirms my interest in medicine. For any premedical students reading this, I highly recommend attending these conferences especially ones organized by universities in different cities to expand your network.