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Bond medical student journeys to the WHO halls of power

Bond University medical student Sean Adcock will have the opportunity to experience the politics of health at the highest level when he joins Australia’s delegation to the World Health Assembly in Geneva later this month [May 21-26].

Sean, 22, is one of just four students Australia-wide who have received a Global Voices Scholarship to attend the annual decision-making congregation of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“When I left Ipswich Grammar School a few years ago, I made a list of 12 achievements I wanted to get out of life,” said Sean who is now in the final year of Bond’s Medical Program.

“One was to become a doctor which I will achieve by the end of the year.

“Also on that list was to understand and become a critical part of international aid and health governance in which the World Health Organisation is the pinnacle. So it was a bit of good fortune when the Global Voices scholarship opportunity was passed on to me by one of our Associate Professors, Dr Mark Morgan.”

Having watched his father suffer from an arthritic condition, Sean’s interest in studying medicine is probably not surprising.

But his father’s early life experience also prompted in Sean a unique insight into how health policy impacts individuals and their families.

“In Australia we accept that everyone has an equal right to basic services such as healthcare and education, so our Government policymakers have created systems like Medicare and school funding,” said Sean.

“The same is true on a global basis where healthcare is now seen as a fundamental human right, regardless of where people are born or what country they live in.

“The WHO has played a major role in achieving this and I am really looking forward to being in a room with global health leaders whose decisions have this sort of impact on millions of lives.”

Sean’s scholarship preparation got underway in early May with a three day pre-departure briefing in Canberra where he was introduced to Australia’s WHA delegation, along with Senior Advisors to the Ministers for Health, Aged Care, Indigenous Health and Rural Health.

“We met with the Chief Medical Officer, Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT’s) Senior Policy Officer, who make up the core of the Australian delegation,” said Sean.

“We had amazing access to all these people, moving in and out of their offices in Parliament House; the Chief Medical Officer even invited us to just ‘tag along’ with him.

“The timing of our briefing was just before the Federal Budget so there was a lot of discussion about our key health issues within Australia as well as our priorities for health on an external basis.

“But the most fascinating aspect of the Canberra trip for me was having that sudden insight that this is how democracy works. Everyone is different and we all have strong ideas and opinions but making good policy depends on everyone agreeing to a common goal and negotiating the best way to achieve it.

“I’m really excited now to see how this works on a global scale in Geneva.”

While Sean’s scholarship will be funded by Bond University, his access to Australia’s policy makers and attendance at the World Health Assembly is facilitated by Global Voices.

Founded in 2009 by then-university student Thom Woodroofe, Global Voices is designed to give young Australians the opportunity to attend high level international diplomatic events that they would otherwise not have access to.

Over the past decade, the organisation has sent more than 200 scholarship recipients to 18 countries to attend 55+ global think tanks including the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Forum, the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit and successive annual Y20 Summits.

“Global Voices offers an unparalleled professional development experience for young Australians interested in foreign policy and international relations,” said the organisation’s Chief Executive Officer, Amelia Rhodes, who attended the 2011 APEC Summit in Hawaii as Global Voices’ first-ever National Scholar.

“Each scholarship comprises three main elements – the pre-departure briefing, attendance at a major diplomatic event and a research fellowship where we team our scholars with an academic mentor to write a policy paper on their subject of choice.

“Sean’s group will be the first delegation we have sent to the World Health Assembly, so we are looking forward to opening up more opportunities in the field of health management and policy making.”

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