post conflict(ed) recovery

Posted by Andy Pearce

Mon, 30 Apr 2012

On the weekend of the 14th-15th April, Medsin KCL hosted over 300 students for Medsin’s global health conference. The conference was entitled Conflicted: The War For Health and dealt with the causes, health effects and responses to violent conflict around the world.

It’s been two weeks since the conference and I’m still in a bit of a daze. I would like to say that that I feel like Muhammad Ali when he quipped that “It’s hard to be humble, when you’re as great as I am”. Unfortunately the daze doesn’t quite feel like that. It feels more confused but excited, satisfied but wondering what I do next.

It seems only yesterday that I began my epic journey to the Newcastle AGA. By epic I mean an eight quid, cramped megabus trip that took seven hours. There I defeated the stiff resistance of Ron and as a result, was given the go ahead for medsin-KCL to host. I returned to London filled with excitement and trepidation for the task ahead. Soon enough I was joined by Felicia, Jules, Irfaan, Zinzi and a host of other eager King’s students. Some of these were old hands, whilst others medsin virgins. I could not have wished for a more industrious, inspiring and fun group to work with.

The next order of the day was the small task of organising a conference. It is hands down the most interesting, infuriating and satisfying task I have been involved with. There were lows, but there were so many fantastic moments that more than made up for it. A personal favourite has to be Jules securing hundreds of free flapjacks just days before the conference using only 2 items: a telephone and a large dollop of charisma. My personal role was mostly involved with finding speakers and organising the social though I received considerable help in both aspects. Before organising this conference, I had never realised the emotions the words “I would be delighted to attend” could instil in a person.

The months of hard work by the conference committee culminated in the committee and ushers meeting early on the Saturday morning at Guy’s campus. At 8AM, as the gates of greenwood lecture theatre were unlocked, a horde of red-shirted medsinners collapsed through the doors to setup for registration. Ten minutes of organised chaos later and we were prepared for registering all our sleepy-eyed but eager delegates who had come from as far as Camberwell, Cornwall and even Catalonia.

Despite seeing very little of the conference I have heard that there were some definitive highlights including our keynote speaker Dr. Robin Coupland, our Questiontime event, the huge photo stunt, the salsa dancing, the huge range of workshops, professional filming, global health book fair, the photo competition, over 2500 biscuits and 130kg of fruit. I am aware that was more than some. Apologies.

However, we also had some complaints. Firstly, the food. Personally, I was a big fan of the food, but I am of course not exactly impartial. We should’ve explained why we went for a vegan option and made it clear to delegates. Medsin campaigns on climate change issues and its impact on health (and as discussed by Maya Tickell-Painter, a contributing factor to violent conflict) and the vegan caterers we used are truly committed to low carbon and fairtrade sources and share medsin’s vision. Secondly, a ‘clerical’ error meant that we ordered some sort of caffeine free, coffee alternative. That was not cool. Although we strove for perfection, we did actually achieve it. Sorry, that was meant to read didn’t. We’ve learnt from our mistakes as will pass this on to Warwick – who are hosting the next medsin conference!

But what now after the conference is over? I hope that all the delegates that attended have been energised and inspired by the weekend and will bring that energy back to their branches. The response we’ve had from King’s students has been fantastic and I can’t wait to get into branch organising next year with a deluge of new medsinners joining our ranks. I also hope that delegates have been educated on issues surrounding violent conflict and health and can go on to advocate on issues regarding health care in danger, the arms trade, climate change and more. Finally, I simply hope that everyone enjoyed the conference, made new friends and had a great time. I can’t wait to actually attend the next conference, and good luck to Warwick!

P.S. I would have thanked everyone who made this conference possible but that would’ve doubled the word length/bored you all to tears. You all know who you are and we couldn’t have done the conference without you.



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