We touch down in NYC. My fellow Aussie, Dr Jess Ng, turns to ask what time it is. “6:30” I reply. She nods and starts packing up her things, then turns to me and questions, “Wait, am or pm?” It had been 30hrs since we left home, and the 16hr time difference was playing with our heads.
Of course we gave ourselves a few days to see NYC and get over the jet lag. We had a great time seeing the Statue of Liberty, Time Square and taking photos of squirrels in Central Park. I was on the other hand horrified at the density of Starbucks, and the suspicious smell and the destruction of two culinary cultures in the form of a ‘sushi burrito’. Tuesday night finally came, and after practicing our talk in a bar to our new made Canadian friend, Dr Eve Purdy, we were ready for FIX17.
Traveling to New York for the FIX17 conference was an incredible experience that has broadened my horizons and lit a fire in my belly. Now that I am home, I have had time to reflect on what made this conference so amazing, what I took away, and how I have changed as a result.
This conference brought together inspired and inspiring women and men. We heard from speakers, who not only compelled us to do more, but who explored how we can support ourselves and our colleagues and cope with failures, burnout, imposter syndrome and ‘being average’. It was also the perfect setting to network with some incredible people and its intimate size meant no one was left alone in the crowd. I feel truly privileged to have met so many awesome people – and yes Mr. Ross Fisher, I mean awesome in the literal sense. I was in awe.
While I had many lessons to take home from New York, the one that has stuck the most is the potential scope of influence we have. I’ve come to appreciate how much we can affect change within our departments, hospitals, and wider medical community. Women have gone from being the oddity at medical school to being the norm. Fantastic work is being done to create the hospital environments we want for the future – flexible working hours, accessible lactation rooms, maternity/paternity leave, safe spaces for conversations around failures, and sponsorship of women into leadership positions. It has made me appreciate that our potential scope of practice is far above the clinical aspects of the patients we care for.
FIX17 also makes me think about the influence we can have on a larger scale. Being in the USA meant some of their current issues were in the limelight. Now I will be the first to say that Australia is far from perfect (case in point – we are currently having a public vote on whether I should be able to legally marry the person I love). But during my short week, I glimpsed a brief insight into what our American colleagues are working through.
I witnessed things entirely foreign to an Australian. For example, I participated in a protest just to ask for rational regulations to gun access in the wake of a mass shooting. I was told to refrain from posting on social media in relation to a talk about access to safe termination facilities, out of fear of violence towards the speaker or conference. I heard about a Government that is actually trying to ‘decrease’ access to healthcare.
But what I also saw were passionate physicians who are determined to make their country better. It inspired me to be more engaged in those conversations back home, and to utilize the fact that our position as physicians places at a unique vantage point to speak out. Esther Choo posited, that at some point we might each need to step up to be an attending physician – not for a patient – but for a cause.
So we’re back in Australia. 10 days, 30982 km/19251 miles travelled, and 1 DVT later (next time I’m taking the aisle seat because Rivaroxaban isn’t as fun as it sounds), our trip to NYC is over. This experience has made be hungry for more, and has connected me to people who can help me get there. While I am still concentrating on getting through intern year and into the Emergency Medicine training program, I am also thinking about what my impact will be, and how I want the future to look. My dreams are big.
I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone in the FemInEM team. Your vision brought us together, and together we are a force worth reckoning with.