2021 AIMA Conference student essay prize

Earlier in February, we invited medical and naturopathy students to submit a 300-500 word essay on the topic “What is the role of the doctor/practitioner in building community resilience?” with the chance to win four prize packs which include a free ticket to the 2021 AIMA Virtual Conference, a selection of books on integrative medicine topics, and $200 cash each.

With such a high quality of essays submitted, it was a hard job for the judges, but we are delighted to announce the four winners of our Student Essay Competition.

Congratulations to Brittany Davis-Havill, Neakiry Kivi, Neha Bhardwaj and Liam Ballard!

Thank you to Brittany Davis-Havill (Medical Student at The University of Auckland) who allowed us to share her essay below:

 What is the role of the doctor/practitioner in building community resilience?

At the heart of resilient communities are robust social networks which help people address challenges in their daily lives and challenges occurring during times of extreme stress. The doctor/practitioner is one of these social networks whose role in building community resilience can be considered as having three components: scaffolding, sounding board and support.

Individual and collective health are pillars of community resilience. The doctor/practitioner can be a scaffold for building community resilience by using knowledge of the domains of health (physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental) to advise patients and formulate plans to help them overcome present and future adversity in these domains. Due to intimate connections between health domains, adversity usually impacts multiple domains, so the doctor/practitioner has knowledge and ability to address domains collectively. At an individual level, scaffolding looks like tangible actions taken during consultations. For example, providing education, prescribing treatment and connecting patients to services. At a community level, scaffolding is about the doctor/practitioner engaging and fostering connections with a range of other services, programmes and individuals to enable a wrap-around systems response to patients experiencing adversity.

In addition to scaffolding, it is important the doctor/practitioner acts as a sounding board for building community resilience because resilient communities are made of resilient individuals and resilience has to come from within. Doctors/practitioners are key to helping patients identify and develop their own resilience. At an individual level this includes listening to patients’ ideas about adversity they are facing, such as its origin and how to overcome it, and helping patients identify their goals and motivations across health domains. This involves facilitating patients to recognise their strengths and areas for improvement, and empowering patients to be confident in themselves and make informed decisions about their health. As a sounding board for the community, the doctor/practitioner must recognise and reflect values of the community in their practice and their connections with other oragnisations, services and professionals. Ultimately, a resilient community is one that can engage available resources to overcome adversity and if resources reflect the values of the community, the community is more likely to engage with them.

The third component of the doctor/practitioner role in building community resilience is support. An important part of being a doctor/practitioner is being human and engaging in meaningful interactions with patients to support them to flourish and be healthy. At an individual level, this support includes actively listening to patients discuss the adversity they are facing, acknowledging the resilience individuals are developing and displaying in times of adversity, and ensuring patients know the support will be there in the future if they need it. Doctor/practitioner support at the community level involves informing the community about how to access care and working to establish care systems that are accessible for all members of the community. Individuals and communities feeling supported during adversity builds resilience.

Considering the role of the doctor/practitioner in building community resilience through the components of scaffolding, sounding board and support demonstrates the diversity and neccessity of the role.

For more information on our conference click here