In Conversation with Jess Redmond: 2018 AMSA Vice President Internal

Jess Redmond, current 5th year, tells us about AMSA, medsoc, mental health and more. On a national level, she has been involved in the AMSA executive, GHC 2016, NLDS 2017 and the AMSA Mental Health Campaign. More locally, she has made waves in her role as a Charities officer, Blue Week Convenor, UNMS President, Clinical School rep and Year rep. Check out her interview below!

Can you tell us about your current role as Vice President Internal for AMSA?

I oversee all of the non-advocacy-based initiatives of the organisation (e.g. events, projects, committee work, publications, engagement, etc.) and oversee and support all of the >500 AMSA volunteers. It is essentially like a HR and operations manager of a standard organisation. I came to choose this role because I love AMSA and have enjoyed my experience in multiple roles and wanted to facilitate other people accessing such opportunities!

What were the highlights of the role?

I would have to say working with my incredible team, and creating new initiatives this year. I would say some key things were running the largest Vampire Cup blood donation drive in history, launching the Activ8 mental health preventative campaign, launching a database for bulk-billing GPs for medical students, launching our AMSA Academy education courses and incorporating the hospital health checks and rural training opportunities into our Internship guide. These were key highlights for me.

The moment the team found out they won the 2018 AMSA election. From left to right: Jack Mackenzie (Treasurer), Alex Farrell (President), Jessica Redmond (VPI) & Victoria Cook (VPE). 

What goals did the 2018 AMSA team have and how did they go about achieving them?

In essence, we had a lot of goals surrounding accessibility and positive culture within AMSA, and advocacy goals based on our student voted national priorities. Achieving goals takes significant planning with targeted action. We had a few strategies including developing a business plan with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), having multi-day retreat meetings. Once we set our goals, we would plan what minutia of steps it would take to reach these and set timelines and deadlines to work towards.

How has your work with AMSA influenced the way you perceive the medical field?

Absolutely! Being involved in AMSA has been a very educational experience as to how the medical field works. This ranges from having a clearer sense of how to navigate the workplace, what the training pipeline looks like, how internship allocations work; but also a broader sense of what we have the capacity to achieve as doctors, and the importance of advocacy. This can be advocacy of individual patients, or en masse, to achieve better situations for ourselves through culture change, and more importantly, the general public by addressing major issues that impact on everyone’s health – like the environment, human rights abuses of asylum seekers, and obesogenic environments.

“It’s about being realistic about what your limits are and being willing to ask for help, taking breaks and constantly evaluating priorities.”

How did you balance study and your role in AMSA?

Balancing this essentially came down to meticulous planning, time management, organisation and learning to be better at delegating! AMSA work always seemed easier than studying, so I used to ensure that I would study for x amount of hours before I could start doing some AMSA work, and would engage in hospital work as a priority during the day. It’s about being realistic about what your limits are and being willing to ask for help, taking breaks and constantly evaluating priorities (for me- health and happiness, med school, then extra-curricular commitments).

Who were the other Newy students on the AMSA team and what was it like working with them?

They were Jack Mackenzie (Treasurer), Olivia Chang (Student Engagement Officer) and Ashley Bailey (National Coordinator). It was an absolute delight to work with these fiercely competent, passionate and lovely human beings. Ash and Liv were actually my mentees in the AMSA Women in Leadership Mentor Program last year, so it was such a pleasure to see them grow in their roles and their confidence!

“Attitude, motivation and determination are the most important attributes we look for, rather than skills or experience that can be learned.”

Do you have any advice for medical students seeking to join AMSA’s executive?

First piece of advice is, don’t fill your head with excuses as to why you think you aren’t capable! I have spent many years thinking I wasn’t “cut out” for many things. Attitude, motivation and determination are the most important attributes we look for, rather than skills or experience that can be learned. We are all students and volunteers at the end of the day. Taking on an executive role is a large commitment, but for me it was absolutely worth it, and the best thing was the incredible team I got to work with, which are essentially my second family of incredible humans now.

The 13th of September was R U OK Day. Can you tell us about the AMSA Mental Health Campaign?

Student mental health is a particular passion area of mine. I think it is extremely important for us to address and talk about it, so people realise that it is okay not to be okay and that they are not alone. The AMSA Mental Health Campaign was designed to address this growing issue and attempts to address stigma, prevention, and address the high rates of mental illness and suicide in medical students. We provide toolboxes to medsocs with resources to create their own events, have an excellent resource called Keeping Your Grass Greener, launched the Activ8 prevention campaign and national GP database, as well as, run the Humans of Medicine awareness campaign throughout October Mental Health month. You can check out their facebook, instagram or website for more!

The AMSA team representing medical students at the Australian Medical Association (AMA) National Conference. 

We hear that you invented the famous UNMS Blue Week! Tell us the story behind this. Is there anything you want to see in future Blue Weeks?

Yes, this is true! I went to the AMSA Global Health Conference in 1st year. Back then, mental health was far less on the map and I looked into what existed and found the AMSA Mental Health campaign which at the time was designed to help medsocs run what was called a ‘Blue Week’ – so I begged my AMSA rep to let me start something at Newcastle, and Blue Week was born! I am proud to have been involved and to have formalised the placement of Community and Wellbeing on the UNMS Committee, as well as, help put the conversation on the faculty’s agenda.

In terms of the future, I think there are a few essential components to any Blue Week and then everything else is up to the organisers! Those things are – opportunities to practice health self care behaviour and learn good preventative behaviours for good mental and physical health, discussions around stigma and attempt to overcome it, frank conversations about suicide and serious mental health issues – and opportunities to try and address this, and conversations about how we can address the systemic issues in medicine that contribute to higher rates of mental illness and suicide.

Congrats on establishing UNMS Blue Week! It really is a brilliant initiative. Now, to finish off, we’ll squeeze in some non-AMSA questions.  

Any hobbies?

I love being outdoors, exploring and being active with my friends.

Favourite spot in Newy?

The beach is my happy place; so, I would say the Merewether-Cooks Hill stretch, as well as, the ANZAC walk. We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world.

Plans beyond medical school?

Career wise, I am very excited to be an intern next year and get stuck into the world of full-time work and serving people. Long term, I plan on undertaking physician training and becoming a neurologist, as well as, continuing in advocacy and medical leadership work that I love. Immediately beyond medical school though, I plan on having a break from commitments, spending time with my dear friends and having a great grad trip in Europe! It’s all about balance.

Is there anything else you would like to say? 

Thanks for thinking I am worth interviewing! I have loved every minute of being involved in Medsoc and AMSA and being a medical student in the beautiful place that is Newcastle. We are a wonderful bunch of people, and the highlight of being involved is the lifelong friends I’ve made, and I hope you find things you are passionate about and your tribe of people in medicine that keep you healthy and happy!

In this interview, Jess mentioned AMSA’s Activ8 prevention campaign. As part of this, on the 6th of October, UoN will be getting involved through attending Newy Parkrun. Make sure to check it out!