Written by Jason Lin, edited by Geraldine Yang
Disclaimer: The views presented in this article are not targeted towards any individual medical student, but rather are a commentary on the general attitudes of the medicine community at UNSW.
From my brief one and a half years as a UNSW med student, one inherent issue has always stood out to me and frankly, irked me a little. No, I’m not talking about the oft-times excessive workload of the course, nor the lack of dining options at upper campus. Med students are completely clueless about the rest of the university and the nature of the course, whileMedFac’s disjuncture from the rest of the uni and the general elitism of MedSoc have not exactly been helpful in alleviating this issue. In fact these elements of UNSW Medicine may be instead perpetuating an impenetrable, rock-solid bubble situated at the apex of upper campus.
The makings of this bubble are visible even prior to the start of uni, where a fissure between the medicine elitists and plebeians of lower campus has emerged from something as mundane as catching different Light-Rail lines to uni. It doesn’t help that this sentiment is perpetuated by MedFac, our professors, the general public and even our parents – a niche, exclusive faction of the most privileged individuals in the world in one of the most competitive courses in Australia. Despite this, the rightful pride and superiority should be transient and kept to oneself – rather than incessantly compelled onto others.
For starters, med students are relatively underrepresented in society events and the rest of the university. It doesn’t help that through timetabling alone, we are segregated, with mismatched holidays and term dates from the genius idea that four terms can synchronise with a university that operates on trimesters. But this doesn’t paint the full picture. Maybe underrepresentation is a compromise from the bucket loads of work as a medical student – after all we have three lectures a day, two assignments a term and we’re on campus most days of the week, so every spare second at night is spent studying? Or is it a general ignorance of the happenings of UNSW, with general unawareness as a byproduct of medical elitism.
“We don’t need to keep up with the rest of the uni, medicine has everything that I need”
I’m leaning towards the latter though not to the extreme which I illustrated. Sure, MedSoc provides almost everything that we could ever want – an absolutely enormous committee, with hundreds of subcommittee members and portfolios that range from culturally focused, diversity-inclined, hobby-oriented and special interest groups for specific fields of medicine. This hugely extensive and all-encompassing community with all its different niches propagates complacency and a restrictive satisfaction, almost like a self-sustaining village that doesn’t need any goods, services or imports from the outside world. But as we know, no such village exists. It is only when we venture beyond the walls of our comfort zone do we gain a much greater appreciation of everything UNSW has to offer.
Garnish your Linkedin profile, connect with leaders and entrepreneurs, even apply for an internship during your degree. Try everything, especially all Phase 1 students: this is truly the most time you’ll ever have in your degree. Phase 2 students, maybe as a bit of a side gig and Phase 3, a wistful strand of hope which you can still latch onto but don’t give up! I fervently believe that no one, not even yourself will know where you’ll end up in 20 years time. Who knows, maybe those lawyers you’ve connected with will dig you out of a grossly unjust medical malpractice case. Maybe those business students are the ones to consult when starting your own clinic and those finance students advising you about your taxes. Those computer-science students may be pitching a ground-breaking medical AI technology that cures every disease and, god forbid, replaces our jobs. The exercise physiologists and optometrists that will refer patients onwards to you, researchers whose treatments you will be using in your own practise, the hospital janitors with their own unique advice and life experiences, the point is that living in a bubble, it is impossible to appreciate the absolutely immense variety of people that there are.
Behind us are the days where med students haven’t even stepped foot onto lower campus. Promotion of other uni events, collaborations with other societies, marketing Medsoc events to all uni students are only the first baby steps which need to be taken to promote UNSW Medicine as an inclusive and welcoming sanctuary at the apex of upper campus.