Launch of New Zealand Medical Students Journal

  • Annette King

I should probably start today by saying that during my life I have seen many student publications, and I might well have thought twice about accepting an invitation to launch some of them.

It is a great pleasure, however, to have been asked here today to celebrate the launch of the New Zealand Medical Students Journal.

Firstly I want to acknowledge Professor John Campbell, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, and Ayesha Verrall, chair of the NZMSJ. I am sure this is a really exciting day for you both.

The publication of this journal is a real achievement, and I am very keen to see it continue. Ajay Sud, the NZMSJ student representative, summed it up perfectly in a letter to me when he said “the launch will be the culmination of the efforts of many students and staff.”

I know that support from the University, staff and advertisers has helped the students produce a journal they can truly be proud of, and everyone involved deserves to be congratulated for their dedication and commitment.

The journal provides a fantastic opportunity for medical students to express themselves, to demonstrate their capabilities and to publish their research findings – from class projects, summer studentships, Bachelor of Medical Science projects and other studies.

It also provides the perfect chance to practice skills that will be invaluable once they graduate, by allowing them to make the transition from writing for medical school to publishing quality academic work in professional journals. The journal will also enable students to practice critical analysis of literature and research.

Of course, the journal is also bound to reveal the more human side of medical students. Contributions from undergraduates and postgraduates about their experiences and feelings – a slice of life - are very important as well.

Knowing that others have experienced the same feelings - and sometimes fear - that you have, can be reassuring. This adds an extra dimension to the journal, and acknowledges the reality that doctors need to develop people and life skills as well as excelling academically.

This personal element to the journal also acknowledges that being a doctor is not only about your own hard work, but also the hard work of those supporting you. Parents, staff, friends, nurses and even patients all play a significant role in the growth and education of each doctor.

Otago University says that one of the personal attributes desirable in the university’s graduates is the “capacity to be a critical thinker, capable of weighing, evaluating and integrating new information into his or her understanding of issues”.

As Health Minister, I am certainly not going to argue about that. But I would also add that I hope we are also producing medical graduates with passion and a sense of vision and vocation who are committed to making our health system as good as it possibly can be.

New Zealand has an excellent health system, and today’s medical students will play a crucial role in ensuring that this continues to be the case.

I am told that the Ministry of Health will be involved in sponsoring the journal, and I see this as an effective forum for two-way communication about issues affecting the health sector.

By the time many of you graduate and complete clinical training, some of the realities surrounding health may well have changed, however. New technology and methods of delivering services will be developed, and I hope and believe the benefits of the Government’s Primary Health Care Strategy and the establishment of Primary Health Organisations will have become evident in better health status and fewer hospital admissions.

Ensuring that primary care has an appropriate workforce is one of my key focuses. It goes without saying that general practitioners are a key component of that workforce, especially in rural areas. To this end, the Government has increased the number of funded medical places by 40 each year, 20 at Otago and 20 at Auckland.

I am pleased students from a rural background have filled all the available places. If any of you are here today I welcome you, and encourage you to return to your roots when you have finished your long years of study.

Another key area for the Government is the reform of our tertiary education system. We want to make tertiary institutions more responsive to the needs of the sectors that will eventually employ their students.

You are part of that continuing process, and I urge you to participate in the many debates that I am sure will take place as the Tertiary Education Commission implements the Government’s strategy.

This could affect the way courses are delivered and the way health research is funded. We want to ensure positive results for the delivery of health care in the future.

I hope this new journal provides a forum to contribute to that debate.

The Health Workforce Advisory Committee has recently established a Medical Reference Group to examine issues affecting the medical profession.

I am sure this group will also welcome your input and perspective on issues that confront you as students and affect the development of your future careers - including, no doubt, the impact of student loans.

As I said, this is an important occasion, and this new journal can now consider itself well and truly launched. I wish it the same rewarding success in the future as you have in your future careers as medical practitioners. Thank you again very much for inviting me to join you today.