In September of 2019, a delegation of Australians from NoWEM, the Network of Women in Emergency Medicine, made the long-haul trip to NYC for our first experience at FIX – the FeminEM Idea Exchange. We’d had the opportunity to host the FeminEM team at our own event in Sydney earlier in the year, so we were excited to meet up with our old friends and see what they had in store for us.
Well, we were absolutely blown away – from the moment we walked into the welcome party on the Hudson River, right up to the final farewells as the stage was packed up around us. It’s hard to describe the powerful feeling of being surrounded by a thousand healthcare professionals from around the world, who have come together to exchange ideas and share inspiration for a more inclusive and just future.
The content was rich and varied. There was a celebration of women’s choices – the choice to work as a long-term locum, the choice to abandon mommy-guilt and instead role-model professional success to our families, and the choice not to have children at all. We considered the importance of intersectional allies, and how to recognise and overcome our implicit bias. We learned about the jumbo jet full of people that die due to structural racism every day across the US. We reflected on the enormous cost of sexual violence to the healthcare sector and the women who work in it. There were raw and heartfelt stories of some of the private challenges that our colleagues have experienced including obesity, post-partum depression, pregnancy loss and family violence. We witnessed the impact that climate change is already having on our practice in emergency medicine and considered how to minimise our impact on the planet. The challenge was issued for us to raise our voices against injustice, to unleash our inner witches and to use our anger to effect change – even to run for public office! A phrase was coined that we hope will define the future of healthcare: humanist-based medicine. The breadth and impact of the presentations was astounding – every speaker had an important message, and every speaker delivered with poise and power.
The foyer was packed with pop-up stores featuring a carefully curated selection of socially responsible and female-led vendors – with some seriously great products! The daily breakfast was a healthy feast, and an opportunity to sit around the table with our fellow delegates, sharing our stories and looking forward to the day’s talks.
We met new friends from across the globe – including plenty of people we have admired from a distance through Twitter, the FOAMED world and the EM literature. We also enjoyed spending time with old friends and each other, away from the distractions of everyday life and work. The whole event was a genuinely unique and innovative medical education experience.
We came away feeling refreshed, inspired and empowered. We can’t wait for Chicago 2020, and in the meantime, we know we are connected to a huge raft of like-minded people across the globe.