Young Doctors should work in Poorer Nations, says WMA President

A suggestion that all medical students and doctors in training should be encouraged to have a minimum of one months "elective" experience in one of the "poorer" nations of the world, has been put forward by Dr James Appleyard, president of the World Medical Association in a new year message to the WMA's 80 national medical association members.

"Such experience will change their lives and enable them to take on the challenging task of advocacy for the needs of the poorer nations and promote positive changes in the future", said Dr Appleyard.

He urged national medical associations to encourage medical students and doctors in training to work in one of the world's poorer nations as part of his new year wish for medical associations in the "developed world to support their "sister"' associations in the developing world".

"With the health divide between rich and poor nations widening, there is an urgent need to try to bridge this gap - for the sake of humanity, for the sake of medical progress and for the sake of their economic growth. The World Bank has estimated that the gap between the richer 20 per cent of nations and the 20 per cent of poorer nations could be bridged if the burden of infectious disease were lifted".

"Children bear the brunt of this burden. For the future of all nations it is vital that their health needs are met. Healthy children mean healthy and productive adults and economic progress."

Dr Appleyard said his two other wishes for the new year were:

  • that national medical associations should create a worldwide network of partnerships between themselves, governments, medical schools and universities to increase the amount of research on drugs for the "neglected" diseases, such as TB, Aids and malaria;
  • that national medical associations should check that their Governments and institutions had placed the needs of children at the centre of their development plans by addressing the principles of the WMA's Declaration of Ottawa on the "Right of a Child to Healthcare".

He said that physicians were one of the strongest advocates for the health needs of the poor who were themselves spending all their energy on just surviving.