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The UOHS executive and volunteer team. Photo: UOHS/Provided

One-day conference focuses on interdisciplinary field of health 

The 10th edition of the University of Ottawa Healthcare Symposium (UOHS) was held on campus on Jan. 18, drawing over 200 students and hosting 12 renowned speakers.

This year’s event featured former minister of health Jane Philpott, Red Cross vice-president of international operations Hossam Elsharkawi, and U of O alumnus and recipient of the 2019 CBC Trailblazer Award Midia Shikh Hassan.

“Trying to start a conversation and building a community of health care enthusiasts within the university was the initial concept,” said UOSH co-president Oana Mirel. “Even though it’s just for one day, everyone comes together with one interest in mind, one goal in mind — which is to learn, which is to discuss, which is to eat great food, which is to have some fun.”

“I love the curiosity and passion that everybody who comes to and organizes the UOHS brings,” added co-president Emma Scott, highlighting the intersectional approach the conference takes. “We forget that … there are a lot of things that aren’t biology that can make a person sick.” 

Scott emphasized that many students aspiring to be medical professionals forget that there are different career pathways to take besides being a medical doctor.

“We can learn biology isolated in a classroom, but at the end of the day when we go out into the real world, which is so scary, all disciplines are going to be together, and we’re gonna have to figure it out from there.”

“This conference (is) a way to delve into different aspects of health and medicine, and (to learn about) all the other facets of health care that I don’t really learn in school,” said Mirel. ”As a delegate, it provides me with that space outside of the classroom to grow, not only as a student but as an individual.”

“A lot of us are like, ‘oh, I could be a doctor, or I could be a researcher,’ and that’s kind of it. In contrast, we come here and we see something like ‘oh wow, I could actually go to 18 different countries and do 18 different things throughout my life!” It’s nice to see that we’re not limited,” said Scott.

So, is the UOHS limited to only students pursuing medicine or health science? According to the team, no. 

“I think people get scared when they hear ‘health care conference,’ and become very closed-minded about what to expect,” expresses Mirel. “I think it’s amazing to see non-traditional health students at such events.”

What are some things for students to look forward to for next year’s conference? 

“We have not yet done a workshop, but there are lots of conferences that do it, so we’re definitely thinking about integrating that aspect,” said Scott.

The team plans to release applications for executive candidates in late May, while volunteer applications will be open sometime in October.

“We’re (constantly) looking at the team growth aspect, and taking what we have in terms of feedback from today’s event, always eager to change things up,“ said Mirel. “Every single year, we try to come up with a new theme. So UOHS 2021 will be a new sight to behold!”