Over the past year, AMSA Code Green has been interviewing environmentally-minded medical doctors from around Australia. We’ve asked them what inspired them to get involved with environmental advocacy; how they fit this work into their medical careers; and what challenges they’ve had to overcome in juggling medicine and environmentalism. Perhaps most importantly, we’ve also been asking them what advice they would give to medical students who want to help save the planet.
“ I think the common saying is true that “you make a living by what you get, you make a life by what you give.” By caring for our environment, we are actually caring for ourselves and those we love. “ Associate Professor Marion Carey
Here’s what they had to say:
1. Find your people.
You’re not alone in caring about the environment – there are actually hundreds of Australian medical students and professionals who are just as passionate about saving the planet as you are! And (as we’ve discovered) planet-loving people are nearly always kind, friendly and generous with their time and expertise.Never be afraid to reach out and ask someone for coffee, a chat, or guidance. Connecting with people who share your passions is one of the best ways to get motivated, recharge, and stay inspired. “Working collaboratively towards a worthwhile goal brings its own level of real enjoyment and deep satisfaction,” says Professor Kingsley Faulker.
2. Join a group.
Our interviewees were unanimous on this one: joining a group is the best way to maximise your impact as you try to make a difference. “This will give you confidence and help prevent burn out,” says Dr Marion Carey. Fortunately, there are heaps of environmental groups you can join: Doctors for the Environment Australia, the Climate and Health Alliance, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, and of course the AMSA Code Green Network.
“As doctors we are accorded status and power by the system. We can use this authority and power to make sure the decisions being made are the healthy wise ones or we can use our power to keep things the way they are. Our choice.”
Dr Peter Tait
3. Start where you are and do what you can.
You don’t have to go and change the world all in one hit – just take small steps that fit in with your lifestyle, location and personal strengths. “Everyone’s journey is different and there are so many ways to make a difference,” says Dr Lisa Searle. Starting little and local is a great way to build your skills and confidence before tackling bigger, scarier things!
4. “Be great doctors”.
According to Associate Professor Grant Blashki, “that always has to be your first priority.” As future doctors, we have to remember that patients are our first priority, and make sure that environmental advocacy doesn’t get in the way of being trained and equipped to help them to the best of our abilities. But, as Dr Forbes McGain says, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t make time to engage with the bigger picture: “We are all busy folk, but we can spare a moment to glance beyond the immediate.”
5. Remember: nobody is perfect!
We know that medical students like to be high achievers, and that this can extend to their environmentalism, too. But it’s important not to get overwhelmed at how much there is to do. Be flexible with yourself about what you’re trying to achieve. Try not to let setbacks and compromises discourage you from realising your earth-saving goals. “Starting with small changes and being imperfect is better than not starting at all,” says Dr Lisa Banh.
All the Global Health love,
AMSA Code Green Project Co-Cordinator
AMSA Code Green would like to thank Dr Forbes McGain, Associate Professor Grant Blashki, Dr John Van Der Kellen, Dr Kate Charlesworth, Professor Kingsley Faulkner, Dr Lisa Banh, Dr Lisa Searle, Associate Professor Marion Carey, Professor Peter Sainsbury, Dr Peter Tait and Professor David Shearman for their time and generosity in being interviewed for this initiative.
We’ll be publishing interviews with more doctors/eco-warriors throughout the year, so make sure to like our Facebook page to stay up-do-date!