Student-led initiatives around the world: Conversation in Isolation’s presentation at the 37th Korean Society of Medical Education Annual Conference

 Written by: Vineeta Giri Edited by: Sophie He

The world is now looking more hopeful in finally seeing the light at the end of the COVID-19 pandemic tunnel. These past 2 years have helped us to realise that we are stronger than we believe, and as a community, we can overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges together. 

Here at Conversation in Isolation, we have witnessed the admirable grit of our student community, which was recently recognised by the global community at the Plenary Symposium for the 37th Korean Society of Medical Education Annual Conference. The event, hosted in South Korea, shone a light on the world’s medical students’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic including student-led community service initiatives and student contributions to the COVID-19 workforce. As an Australian COVID-19 student initiative, Conversation in Isolation was fortunate enough to be invited to present at the symposium.

At the virtual event, we had the opportunity to discover and learn about other student-led initiatives from all around the world; 

University of Bologna (Italy)’s medical students’ initiative ‘The working dead’, organised a number of different programs and projects, including ‘a un metro da te’, through which 250 students volunteered to help hospital staff during the first wave of the pandemic. They also organised the mental health conference PsyCovid-19, discussing topics like pandemic fatigue, and the long term impact of the pandemic.

At the United Kingdom’s University of Nottingham, over 500 medical students signed up to help in response to COVID-19. The students volunteered in roles at National Health Services trusts and in the local community. 

Nagoya University in Japan embraced the concept of “sottaku-douji”, wherein the faculty worked for the students, so did the students for the faculty, in overcoming the challenges presented by the pandemic. 

The medical students from the Korea University College of Medicine undertook an approach focussed on social engagement. They organised disinfection drives for underprivileged populations and through the power of social media, encouraged their community to donate blood. 

Conversation in Isolation was humbled to present as a university from Australia. We shared about the organisation’s inception, working model and operations. The presentation gave us the opportunity to reflect on and share about our successes but also the challenges we have overcome in running the organisation.  You can find our presentation here

The Question and Answer live session after the presentation was also well received, with Conversation in Isolation panellists answering questions including student safety while volunteering, the role and support of the university, and the public’s response to our initiative.  You can watch the Q&A segment here, to hear the responses of our wonderful panellists, Bowen, Sophie and Georgia.

We also had the opportunity to be published in the Korean Journal of Medical Education. Our journal article explored the operations, sustainability and future directions of our organisation, and about our volunteers and community members, their reception and response to our service.  We also shared insight about the benefit our organisation had on the Australian healthcare system, and how our initiative compared to other Covid-19-related initiatives. The article can be found here, for you to have a read to know more about Conversation in Isolation.

Students are the future of our society, and the students behind Conversation in Isolation are proud to be able to give back to their community in times of adversity. Hearing about student-led initiatives around the world gave us hope for the future. And Conversation in Isolation hopes to continue fighting loneliness and social isolation in Australia well beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, one phone call at a time!