Women’s Health and Gender Equality Issues High on the Agenda

Doctors gratefully receive their ultrasounds from Notre Dame students Emma Kelso, Fleur Roxburgh and Amy Hick with Professor Gabrielle Casper.
The University of Notre Dame, Australia, students and staff at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

5 June 2015

Improving health outcomes for women and girls across the globe is the goal of future doctors from The University of Notre Dame Australia following a recent trip by students to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

Nine students from the University’s School of Medicine Sydney, attended this year’s Commission, sowing the seed for better understanding of women’s health and gender equality issues.

The challenges in bringing about global change through international collaboration and agreements was also brought home to the medicine students: Amy Hicks, Diana Dionisio, Emily Sullivan, Emma Kelso, Fleur Roxburgh, Hannah Bascand, Lee-att Green, Amanda Bennett and Regina Waterhouse.

The students heard first-hand from doctors from across the globe on the inequality of health services for women and girls while meeting experts and health advocacy leaders who have been working towards change.

Program coordinator and School of Medicine Head of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Professor Gabrielle Casper, said the experience touched the students in many positive ways.

“The students came away with a real desire to use their medical knowledge to redress social inequities and gained an understanding of the avenues to achieving real and practical change,” Professor Casper said.

A gift of nine portable ultrasound machines provided by an Australian benefactor, and given by the students to doctors from developing countries during the United Nations trip, further enhanced their understanding and medical knowledge of global health issues.

“It was both a personal and emotional experience when each student met with the doctors from Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana, Rwanda, Grenada and Afghanistan,” Professor Casper said.

“They heard of the desperate situation for women across the globe, and by meeting with doctors and talking one-on-one with them as they handed over the machines, they were faced with the reality of the situation and could put a face to the doctors struggling to provide healthcare in their communities.”

Final year medicine student Lee-att Green said attending the Commission had strengthened her own understanding and passion for health advocacy and she was eager to make a contribution to better health for women and girls.

“Hearing of the inequalities and horror that exists worldwide was difficult, but this was buffered by a number of real solutions given by those who have been working towards achieving them,” she said.

Diana Dionisio, also a final year medicine student, said the Commission gave her an invaluable opportunity to gain an insight into the importance of the advancement of women as leaders in education and employment, particularly in order to address issues such as gender inequity and the ‘unconscious bias’ of human resources.

For Amy Hicks the experience also strengthened her interest in human rights, as well as the health status of women and children around the world.

“The conference added so many dimensions to my understanding of human rights and equality, and what it takes to achieve these ideals in a world that is so diverse,” she said.

“Seeing how collaborative relationships are formed by non-government organisations and the United Nations to ensure that the needs of individuals in local communities are being heard and addressed on an international stage was incredibly enlightening.”

Notre Dame’s Dean of Medicine Sydney, Professor Christine Bennett, said the UN visit was an important component of the University’s social justice program with students experiencing policy in action and seeing how it could make a real difference.”

Leigh Dawson: Tel (08) 9433 0569; Mob 0405 441 093; leigh.dawson@nd.edu.au