Department of Health

Western Health - medical student

  • 05 October 2015
  • Duration: 02:58
  • I’ve had a really longstanding interest in the environment and its impacts on health.

    How we exist, I suppose, as humans is so dependent on how the environment functions. So, whether it’s our nutrition and our food supply, or having a healthy and clean water supply, having clean air to breathe; I think the inter‑relationships between the environment and human health are never really identified and emphasised as much as they should be.

    We have health practice subjects that sort of run in parallel with our clinical science component of the course, and I think that would be a great opportunity for environmental issues to be integrated.

    People need to consider what they’re doing and how it’s going to affect patient care because often we just order a bevy of tests and don’t really think about the resources that it’s using. So, I think both in the clinical training and in the pre‑clinical training at university there’s scope to learn theoretically about the environment, as well as in practice in the hospital.

    I don’t think medical students should underestimate what they can do. Sometimes, hospitals can be very hierarchical and you can feel, “I’m just a medical student. What can I do?” So, I think you’ve got to scrap that mentality. You have to educate yourself, like if there’s something in an area that you’re particularly passionate about, go and read up about it, find someone else who knows a lot about it and pick their brains, and then just ask, “What can I do?”

    I’ve seen that scissors in the emergency department that are sterilised and in plastic packets are opened, used only once and then thrown away in the sharps bin. Ask if there’s a project that could be started about recycling them. Another example would be seeing the deficiency of environmental education in the medical curriculum.

    There are the resources out there to run a short course of your own. There are lots of people, professors and other people in the field, who would be more than happy to come and give an evening. You just need to ask them.

    Something I like to talk about when I’m discussing this with friends is the green triangle. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of it, but just thinking about holistic healthcare in the sense of encouraging a patient maybe to get on a bike, or walk to work where that’s possible and thinking well, that’s not just going to help with their cardiovascular disease or their diabetes, but it’s also going to save them money and it’s going to minimise the impact that footprint on the environment. So, I think that’s something that maybe we don’t think about that we, as doctors, can advocate for small changes like that.

Raymun Ghumman, a fourth year medical student at Western Health, talks sustainability.

Reviewed 05 October 2015


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