NLDS 2021: REFLECTIONS

The 2021 AMSA National Leadership Development Seminar, though held online, greatly influenced and presented essential personal and professional skills for medical students. Here are the reflections of three Monash students, sharing their experiences of the event and tips they received from the speakers they heard.

Sue Liu – “advocacy is not about being the loudest in the room”

In an era of Zoom fatigue, NLDS was the one webinar that had me actively engaged and sitting on the edge of my seat. And that’s saying a lot, when I struggle with any class longer than one hour! 

It is such a privilege to have had the opportunity to listen to the unique experiences of the speakers and learnt some key lessons to bring into my personal and professional life. As a quieter individual, I have struggled with the conventional idea of advocacy requiring the  loudest person in the room. Instead, advocacy is about exploring who needs to listen and how to shape your thoughts in a way that directly impacts them.

The project, despite being optional, is something I would thoroughly encourage any future delegates to take up. It was truly one of the wildest 48 hours I have ever experienced, and certainly not devoid of the panic and cramming of university group assignments. However, the opportunity to work with such passionate individuals who were determined to make a tangible project with such potential and have it evaluated for implementation by prestigious AMSA figures was an opportunity like no other. Big shoutout to Nebula and Jas ❤ 


Britney Pham – “we need to learn to follow the advice that we give to others”

If there’s one take-away from any leadership seminar, it is usually to fall down seven times and stand up eight. NLDS 2021 certainly demonstrated this in its inaugural online format, which made for a flexible and engaging event with a variety of high-profile guest speakers despite lockdown. So what exactly can a first year medical student (with an abominable wifi connection) take away from a virtual NLDS? Here are the 3 tips I picked up… and the personal interpretations that I’m taking with me.

Tip #1: Be open to new opportunities

Translation: The ‘doctor’ is a fluid character and every student that enters the med school conveyor belt leaves with unique experiences. Our workload might feel overwhelming and it can be difficult when we are sizing ourselves up against practitioners who have national certifications in their co-curriculars, have published more journals than there are bones in the foot, or successfully balance fully fledged families with their irregular ED calls. However, we all have 24 hours in a day, and apart from the time consumed by our uni timetable, we have liberty over what is scheduled in between. Pick up a new project – it can be unrelated to Med! Read a different genre. Listen to a rising artist. These are the small opportunities that might just help us find the niches that we end up pursuing beyond the ‘hobby’ status.

Tip #2: Operate with restraint

Translation: Establish your principles and limits. What is it that we value most and why are we studying medicine? Every student, like every doctor, must find the courage to say what they agree and disagree with doing. One day, we could be the case studies in an ethical dilemma, and it will boil down to our personal values and reasons for working in the field, in the first place. We can begin by signposting in our own lives, leaving ourselves hints for future reference, for when the current time becomes the past memories and experiences that we look back upon. Ultimately, we need to learn to follow the advice that we give to others.

Tip #3: Lead for the 80%

Translation: The percentage sign might immediately draw our minds to assessment tasks and exams, but this 80% is actually in relation to the people around us. Despite our best efforts and intentions, medicine does not lend itself kindly to unorthodox ideas, and as future doctors, we have to keep in mind that reshaping the healthcare bubble is more work than an individual can achieve on their own. While this possibly means that we will not be able to do enough for 10% of the population in our own time, and another 10% of patients will believe that we are intervening beyond necessity, there remains an 80% whom we will lead, and that our medical advice will have a visible impact on. There is no need to wait for someone to create change, when we are the ‘somebodies’ who can do so of our own accord, from day one.

Now, if there’s one take-away from any first year medical student’s writing piece, it is usually that Zoom is not the ideal place to begin the pre-clinical journey, let alone attend the NLDS. Despite this, I am confident in saying that the artistic licence that results directly from a combination of poor bandwidth, choppy shared screens and buffering audio, leaves me with the above (hopefully creative) translations, from what otherwise would probably have been three very profound and professional tips.

In all seriousness, let’s find ways to incorporate new opportunities into our lives, remembering to operate with restraint and lead for the 80% (at least). NLDS 2021 was a pleasure to attend, and is certainly an event I would encourage students to keep an eye out for in coming years.


Clara Charbine – “we have to meet others where they are at”

As Jane Austen writes in “Persuasion”, “we each begin with a little bias and upon that bias build every circumstance in favour it”. Each one of us navigates the world differently, picking up a multitude of experiences which shape our values and views of what surrounds us. ‘Crossing the aisle’ is an understanding that, inherently, we see things differently. It’s about meeting others where they are at. Paying attention to what their values and views are and using this to build common ground and a shared vision that is in everyone’s best interests. Rather than claiming your view as ‘the truth’, taking time to understand opposing views and facilitating two-way discussion without judgement or confrontation. 

NLDS taught me the art of advocacy and the importance of not simply raising awareness of an issue that exists, but more importantly coming equipped with solutions that can be explored. It taught me that there are many more stakeholders within an issue than we think and to carefully consider the impact of changes on all stakeholders involved. Taking the time to learn more about what is valued by other stakeholders and having a strong foundation of your own core values is a fundamental skill in crossing the aisle in leadership and is one that I hope to encompass as a future doctor. 


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