Lifebox-Medsin Rep of the month – July

Name: Hannah Thomas

Medical School: University of St Andrews 

Year of study: 3 

What motivated you to become a Lifebox-Medsin Rep?

I was motivated to become a rep because I truly believe in the values held by Lifebox and Medsin.

As a future physician and hopefully surgeon, the disparities worldwide are too astounding to ignore. For many, the successful outcome of surgical care is reliant on external factors such as the establishment of medical infrastructure, access to medical equipment, safe pharmacological interventions and more. To ensure surgery remains safe universally, with low complication and mortality rates, means to confront these factors and eliminate their influences. Additionally, for so many reasons, investing in surgery makes economic sense. Chiefly, prioritizing women’s surgical and obstetric care is of the utmost importance to sustain thriving families and communities in low-resource countries. In order to address such large inequalities, these messages need to be displayed on all levels and I am proud to play a part in bringing awareness to my university community and beyond.

You’ve met your three targets for this year in record time, congratulations! What did you most enjoy about this experience?

I enjoyed so many things about this experience; however primarily I valued exchanging thoughts and impassioned views with like-minded individuals. I have learned so much more than I could have ever hoped for by speaking with students and staff equally concerned and motivated by the realities of surgery worldwide. The issue of global surgery is inclusive to those in the medical community as well as those in other fields, and insight from all parties is crucial to its awareness. Thank you very much for allowing me this opportunity this past year. I look forward to continuing these important conversations over the next three years and beyond.

Do think you made an impact at your university?

This year has come with many opportunities to share and integrate the Lifebox-Medsin messages into my university community. Perhaps the largest occasion was the founding of the first ever Global Surgery conference in our School of Medicine. The day featured a vast array of knowledge and personal insight from expert humanitarian clinicians and global surgery researchers. To afford students the opportunities to obtain knowledge of surgical ventures and challenges on a scale beyond our small community, was of significant value. On a more personalised scale, I spoke with incoming freshmen and inquisitive seniors about the disparities in surgical care tools such as a pulse oximeter. Importantly, these were discussions not limited to medical students.

Finally, attending a distinctly international university gave me the privilege to connect the impact of safer surgery with individuals from countries with their own healthcare strife and disparities. I do believe the Lifebox’s concepts for safer surgery are impactful and I have seen first-hand the positive engagement of university students interested in addressing these inequalities.

Why do you think it’s important for medical students to get involved in global surgery?

As medical students, we are in the thick of our education and the founding of the direction of our medical careers. To implement awareness of safer surgery into young minds, is to prioritize global surgery advancements in the next generation of surgeons- to propel this importance forward. Whether it be by fundraising, presentations, student groups, medical electives or other student initiatives, global surgery can be supported on many different levels, in many different ways.

Investing in the education and awareness of our youth should consistently be a top priority for all levels of medical and surgical advocacy. Furthermore, giving a variety of audiences the awareness and publicity to these important issues, translates to increased support. The recruitment of youth as a vessel to relay information about safe surgical care, is vital to advance this attention and enable the life-saving work that these organizations provide.

What does safer surgery mean to you?

I believe that we cannot address safer surgery worldwide without addressing the barriers to safe surgical access. Safer surgery represents a world where all individuals, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, culture, religion, geographic location and socioeconomic status, huddle under one umbrella and receive the same resources for surgical care.

For me, it resonates on an individual, patient level. The cause ensures that a woman’s rural location bears no influence on access to a C-section should the need present. It ensures that the child needing an immediate appendectomy receives care regardless of his parents’ ability to pay. Overall, safer surgery means working and advocating to protect the equality that healthcare as a human right stands for. Providing adequate surgical care extends beyond the operating room to a place where we protect those most vulnerable by offering them the same surgical opportunities as those most fortunate. It is only once we address these health disparities that safer surgery can truly be achieved worldwide.

Learn more about our Lifebox-Medsin Rep Scheme here