The Barry Smith Symposium: When students lead the way
Every September I have the honour of addressing our newest students in the Faculty of Health Sciences and welcoming them to Queen’s University. I explain how proud of them we are as a faculty for making it through such a competitive application process, I tell them inspiring stories of students who came before them, and then I challenge them to “be restless.” My hope is that our students will explore the learning opportunities available to them outside of the classroom, lab, and hospital and become engaged in fighting for a better health care system, and nothing makes me more proud as an educator than when they take that challenge on.
Two years ago, first year medical students Adam Chruscicki and Steven Hanna stepped up to the plate. The two students recognized the importance of clinician involvement as a key component of good health policy development and implementation, and while numerous opportunities seemed to exist for experienced practitioners, they were not aware of many that included students. Rising to the challenge, they set out to create a multidisciplinary panel that could engage professional students in policy development, and named it The Barry Smith Symposium, honouring our former dean who presided over the merger of our three health sciences schools.
“We designed the symposium to provide the participants with a first-hand experience of the creative process and discussion that precedes policy-making, and challenge them to come up with their own ideas for enacting change,” explains co-founder Adam Chruscicki, who is now in his third year of medical school along with his colleague Steven Hanna. “The overarching goal of this initiative is to empower and inspire students – the future of healthcare – to connect, get involved, and become passionate about professional collaboration and systemic change early on in their careers.”
In September of last year, Steven and Adam hosted the first Barry Smith Symposium, and led a discussion between health professional panelists and trainees that created a unique dialogue and resulted in many emergent ideas. This year, Adam, Steven, and their small team of student colleagues plan to take things a step further, going beyond inspiring students and providing them with tangible ways in which they can get involved in policy development.
“This year, attendees will have the opportunity to contribute to a summary report that captures the ideas and will be published online. The report will include the perspectives of health professionals and students with healthcare, business, and policy backgrounds. We will also include the voice of the most important stakeholders – patients,” explains Steven. The aim for this year’s Barry Smith Symposium is to form a discussion on patient empowerment and the various means by which patients can engage providers to shape their care.
“Further down the line, a second outcome of the Symposium will be a grant program to support one student with an outstanding project idea in health policy. To further aid them, we will pair them with a faculty mentor who can provide guidance. Our hope is to expand this program in the coming years and for the conference to function as an incubator for high-impact health policy projects,” says Steven.
This year’s symposium will feature another terrific set of change-makers: Ms. Leslee Thompson, President and CEO of Kingston General Hospital; Ms. Karen Nicole Smith, a prominent patient advocate and member of the Patient and Family Advisory Council at KGH; Dr. Brian Goldman, physician, author and host of CBC’s White Coat, Black Art; Dr. Chris Simpson, Chief of Cardiology at Queen’s and Past President of the Canadian Medical Association; and Dr. Andrew Pipe, Division Chief at the Ottawa Heart Institute, President of the Commonwealth Games Association of Canada, and Olympic Games physician. It is an impressive list.
“I’m delighted to be a part of this symposium again this year,” says Dr. Simpson. “What impresses me the most is that this is 100% student-conceived and run. To see my younger colleagues showing such tremendous leadership in health policy and system reform reassures me that the future is very bright!”
I couldn’t agree more. Adam and Steven and their team members are great examples of students who’ve risen to the challenge we’ve set for them on day one at Queen’s. They are working to build a better heath care system, by fostering interprofessional collaboration and creating learning opportunities along the way for both their student colleagues and teachers.
I’d like to highly encourage all of our health sciences students and faculty members to attend this year’s event, scheduled for this coming Friday, September 11th at 4:30pm in our New Medical Building. If you’d like to leave some words of encouragement for the Barry Smith Symposium team, please feel free to do so in the comments below.
I’d like to thank Emma Woodman for her assistance in the creation of this blog post.