Raw talent and hard work are often described as the benchmarks to achieving success. However, to be able to push your natural skills beyond their limit other vital aspects need to be factored in, such as confidence, wisdom, self-focus and empowerment.

NZ medical students empowered

Having these elements on board will take you far on your quest to success in your field. Something the next generation of medical professionals were made highly aware of at the recently held New Zealand Medical Students Association (NZMSA) conference, Empower.

The MAS sponsored conference was a massive hit. It had a bit of everything for the 200 plus medical students who attended giving them insight into multiple features of the health sector that will no doubt boost their forthcoming careers, as well as their own personal lives.

Three people who were part of the conference were kind enough to share their viewpoints with MAS, along with what the experience at Empower meant to them overall.

Angie Brown

Dunedin-based MAS Student & Grad Adviser Angie Brown was an attendee at Empower and shared her insight into a topic that was deeply felt through a Health & Wellbeing session.

Even medical students struggle with health and wellbeing

Angie’s light-bulb moment came from Empower’s Health & Wellbeing session where she was confronted with the sheer volume of medical students struggling with mental health issues.

“Hearing young people talk about their experiences and dealing with professionals whether that be psychiatrists or counsellors, just to come up with plans to assist themselves and get themselves through it all was a real eye-opener,” said Angie.

“Sadly, it’s not just a handful or half a dozen people; it’s an issue across the board for the majority rather than the minority.”

We need to look after ourselves

Seeing so many students react the way they did to the panel of speakers not only opened Angie’s eyes to how deep these concerns are, but also how important looking after yourself is if you want to be empowered in your career and life.

“I was certainly aware that people do have issues in the demands of study but perhaps not quite to the extent of what it actually is,” said Angie.

“Literally, the entire room were nodding their heads in agreeance with what the speakers were saying regarding their experiences with mental health and the issues they had with stress anxiety throughout the course of their studies and also in the early years of their working life.”

It’s time to get back to basics

After the experience, Angie would encourage students to “get back to basics” regarding their health and wellbeing and to be fully open about their challenges as they wouldn’t be the only ones going through these dilemmas.

“To be honest the biggest thing is getting back to basics. Remembering the small things like eating good nutritious meals each day because if you eat crap you feel like crap and end up in this vicious cycle. Also making sure you get adequate sleep and being active. Making those small things a priority is vital because we often prioritise everything else over ourselves.

  • eat good nutritious meals each day
  • get adequate sleep
  • be active

“If we want to empower ourselves and keep functioning at our best we need to put the focus back on us.”

Health & Wellbeing Toolbox

Angie realises how important it is for MAS to continue to find ways to help students through these challenges using educational material like the student health and wellbeing articles.

One great piece of similar advice came from a junior doctor who shared her toolbox of things she uses to try and deal with the day to day stress.


Dr George Laking

Dr George Laking is a Medical Oncologist on the Ora Taiao, NZ Climate and Health Council. He has been a big campaigner on climate change and anti-smoking (tobacco) as well as a huge advocate for Maori health.

Dr Laking was asked to speak at the conference on MAS’ behalf regarding climate change and the importance of responsible investing; a message he wants all the next generation of doctors to know.

The relationship between climate change and health

“As the world continues to heat up it’s going to have more and more consequences on people’s health,” said Dr Laking. “Infectious diseases, tropical illnesses, threat to food supplies, all these things are bad for health.”

“We’re living in the middle of a huge extinction of life and global heating is a huge part of it. And it’s not just human health being affected its other species’ health also.”

Trust your doctor

Having spent years advocating for climate change and the affects it can have on someone’s health; Dr Laking believes this message now needs to be spread urgently to the wider community. And that it all starts with the medical professionals around us.

“The idea of my talk was to encourage students to get into advocacy in relation to public health topics but in particular this topic because it’s probably the way as doctors where we can make the most impact on health,” said Dr Laking.

“Doctors can contribute to improving society because you have to trust your doctor. And because you have to trust your doctor we are in a position where we can send a message that more people will find convincing therefore changing the point of view of society without telling people what to think.”

Doctors can change the world

“I think the students were pretty well informed on what we call the climate crisis,” said Dr Laking. “I felt the people in the room were pretty motivated to try and change the world for the better.”

“We’ve got a young generation of doctors picking up that power but with great power comes great responsibility and it’s up to those doctors to pass that power onto whanau.”


Cain Anderson

Cain Anderson is a fifth year medical student who was the Convenor of the NZMSA Conference. He shared what the experience of preparing Empower was to him.

Teamwork is everything

“This was the first time I had ever organised an event of this scale,” said Cain. “I wanted a challenge, something to do other than sit at home and study.”

“It took just under 12 months of planning to get everything organised on time but it was a fantastic experience and turned out to be made incredibly easy by a hardworking and committed group of people helping me. Everyone worked really well together which made my job effortless.


“The theme for the conference this year was ‘Empower’,” said Cain.

“We wanted our speakers to really install confidence in our delegates to take control and empower themselves in a personal and professional sense. We hope we achieved this. Our speakers were passionate, our audience was engaged, and I hope everyone took something away from the weekend.”

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