The University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Medicine and Surgery hosted the 33rd Asian Medical Students’ Conference (AMSC), with the theme Surmounting Health Inequalities Across Asia as One Region, last July 8 to 15, 2012.
The Asian Medical Students’ Association-UST, under the Asian Medical Students’ Association-Philippines catered to 15 other participating countries including: Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, United Kingdom, Mongolia, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Taiwan. The participants were given time to get to know each other through a welcome dinner held on July 8.
Prof. Evelyn Songco, PhD, Assistant to the Rector for Student Affairs, delivered the welcome address during the opening ceremony at the Medicine Auditorium. The delegates proudly held their flags during the parade of countries in the 2nd day of the conference. Department of Health Undersecretary Teodoro Herbosa also delivered a speech. “I am impressed that UST students hosted this big event. There was indeed a very good attendance and I am grateful for the opportunity to speak,” he said through e-mail when asked of his thoughts about UST hosting the event. He said he regrets the delay in the schedule though. Nevertheless, Herbosa congratulated and wished more power to Filipino Medical Students. Among the invited speakers was Julieta Gabiola, a Clinical Association Professor of Medicine in Stanford University. “Of all forms of inequality,” Gabiola said, “injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” She further elaborated on the class inequalities in health which is rapidly surfacing the global scene. Another speaker was Dr. Mario C. Villaverde, the Ateneo School of Government Associate Dean. He discussed the different social determinants of health.
ACADEMIC AND SOCIAL ACTIVITIES
They were exposed to panel discussions and academic workshops that are of great relevance to their field. They also held five academic competitions under three categories—research paper, research poster and health campaign. Three competitions were under the Health Campaign Category: Film Competition, won by Taiwan; Public Poster, won in a tie between Australia and Malaysia; and Photography Competition, won by South Korea. Australia won first place both in the Research Paper and Research Poster Competition. Two documentary films, “Ambulansyang De Paa” and “Byaheng Sikmura,” were shown to tackle health-related issues and discuss the different factors that contribute to the difficulty in access of health care, not just in the Philippines but also in other countries. The delegates were also divided into groups and were each went to the Philippine General Hospital, St. Luke’s Medical Center Global City, University of Santo Tomas Hospital, Ospital ng Maynila, Ospital ng Makati, and Makati Medical Center.
To promote the Simbahayan 400, the centerpiece project of the celebration of the quadricentennial anniversary of UST, the delegates were brought to Dagat-Dagatan in Navotas City for a community immersion where they performed free medical consultations, held a seminar, and gave free vaccinations.
The conference was ended with a 3-hour Closing Dinner and a grand Cultural Night with the theme Asian Fusion. Most of the delegates came with their traditional costumes. The Faculty of Medicine and Surgery Dean Ma. Graciela G. Gonzaga delivered the opening remarks of the night, while Manila City Mayor Alfredo Lim expressed in his speech his gratitude to the delegates who attended the conference. The UST Medicine Terpsichorean Circle performed an interpretation number where they portrayed the culture of the different countries. Also performing were the UST Medicine Glee Club, Medical Doctor Intern at the UST Hospital Cristina Marie Lajom, and the Ramon Magsaysay High School Chorale. They serenaded the delegates while having their buffet-style meals. After the dinner, it was time for the delegates to showcase their culture and talents through a performance from each country.
ON THE FILIPINO CULTURE
As part of the itinerary, the delegates were also toured to both historical and modern different places: the SM Mall of Asia, National Museum, Paco Park, Ayala Museum, Fort Santiago Intramuros, Luneta Park, and Market Market Mall. “The sunset in Mall of Asia is very beautiful,” said Victor Kang, a delegate from Taipei Medical University. Though most of the delegates interviewed found the weather very hot, they still enjoyed the places and the warm welcome and treatment of the Filipinos. “Besides the place being beautiful, Filipinos are really funny,” said Wan Esther Tan, a First Year Medical Student in National University of Singapore.
Other participants also looked forward in seeing the rich culture of the Philippines. Andrew Tan from the National University of Singapore shared that besides the tour, he is thrilled in trying out the native cuisine. Pradeep Raj Regmi, the regional chairman of AMSA-Nepal, said in an interview earlier in the conference that he is looking forward in going to places where there are bodies of water, like beaches, since Nepal is a landlocked country.
The AMSA-Philippines, particularly the AMSA-UST, submitted a bidding video along with Egypt and Palestine, to host the AMSC 2012. The regional chairpersons of the members of the AMSA-International decided which country would host this year’s conference. The winning video of the Philippines was based on the concept of Glenn Wilson Ng, head of the Promotions Committee and the National Officer for Professional Exchange of AMSA-Philippines, and Joseph Angelo Kiat, chairman of the Local Organizing Committee of this year’s AMSC. The Organizing Committee had only 10 months to prepare for the whole conference. Other schools under the AMSA-Philippines sent representatives to participate in the said conference.
The preparation wasn’t easy, according to Kiat. He described it as “toxic.” He said he had to keep his cool and be calm when dealing with the obstacles the whole organizing committee experienced on the process of preparation.
The Asian Medical Students’ Association International, where the AMSA-Philippines is a member, is one of the biggest international medical student organizations in the world. The 34th Asian Medical Students’ Conference will be held in Malaysia.
By Chleobel Birginias and Jeffrey Udarbe
Photo taken by Osmar Astilla