MWIA conferences are a highly valuable professional experience for me. There is nowhere else that I can get together with like-minded medical women from more than 40 countries from around the world. We can and do talk interchangeably about women as patients and in one and the same breath, about us as women doctors. The commonalities are so very striking once you’ve had this experience. Until I went to a MWIA meeting, I had personally mainly only witnessed at close hand human rights abuses of women as a resident on my surgical ward rounds in Melbourne. This included female patients, and female medical staff.
Since seeing presentations about women’s human rights at MWIA, I can see so clearly the uncanny commonalities between the way patients are treated and the way women doctors are treated in the medical profession that we all love. Each time I have seen from women around the ways myriad ways to counter what I wish to counter when I get back home. Dancing at the famous Gala Dinner too – any which way – with a bunch of women doctors aged up to 104 years isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I love it.
I like the plenaries where it’s OK to discuss what you want to with the person next to you during the talk, where you can choose your own discipline, or a topic of interest simply from your own perspective as a woman doctor. It’s not just O and G, and paediatrics, but all disciplines seem to be represented. The current president is a paediatric surgeon from Ghana, the previous one, a radiologist from Japan. You can ask any question you like and the speakers are appreciative of your interest. This experience is unlike any other medical conference I go to. These conferences have been going for about 100 years as ours is the oldest medical organisation in the modern Western world.
Just by joining your local branch, for me this is Vic Med Women’s Society, you are automatically a member of the national and international associations.
I’m flying in via Frankfurt and then (I think) going by train to Munster which is a German university town. A glance at this year’s program: Cocktails (I don’t drink but will be there) Tuesday 27th August 6pm. There’s four days of meeting, including posters on women’s and children’s health, and all areas of medicine and public health. Friday 12.30 -2pm there’s a special interest group meeting for young doctors and medical students at the Furstenberghaus (University). There’s two general assemblies modelled on the UN and WHO where there are reports from all the countries represented. Always lots on public health. For instance, I recall a fascinating talk on the beneficial effect of all-women police stations on rape reporting.
Australia will be contributing to the MWIA policy making process and we need volunteers to help type up the policies on the day. The meeting is small enough such that anyone can contribute to new or old policy making and personally meet the advocates of each policy. A hot topic this year apart from women’s health is the health of environmental refugees due to climate change. The conference finishes with a closing ceremony on Saturday July 31st 3pm. For further information, there’s afmw.org.au. For registration go to www.mwia.net. See you there.
National Co-ordinator, AFMW
Ophthalmic surgeon, Melbourne