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ACHSM Perth Asia-Pacific Health Leadership Congress 2022: NSW HMIP Interns Experience

As we flew across the Nullarbor, and into Western Australia (many of us for the first time), we realised this would the beginning of a series of ‘firsts’; first time in WA, first face-to-face conference since the pandemic, first three day networking marathon. We felt equally nervous and excited.

Our nerves were quickly eased on the first evening upon meeting our Victorian Intern counterparts for dinner on the Swan River overlooking the city. We shared similar apprehensions, and it was comforting knowing that now we might find other familiar, smiling faces to sit with at our first session, or  chat to in the ballroom at morning tea.

Anxiety were replaced with excitement at the prospect of seeing the ABC’s famous Dr. Norman Swan live, ‘sans-greenscreen’ Dr. Swan was a source of comfort and trust during the pandemic because of his fearless, independent and transparent journalism. His lessons from the session on keeping those in power accountable and using communications strategically will stick with us as we move throughout our careers. 

We filed into the Ballroom for the first plenary session of the day. As soon as we settled in around our tables, Simon Kaustenmacher proceeded to shatter any illusion we may have had that the workforce crisis would be going away any time soon. Luckily, his fantastic presentation on demographic data  insights gave us an understanding of what we will be facing in the future and useful tips to navigate these challenges. One tip - ‘appealing to a millennial’s need for purpose’ is something we can vouch for as this is exactly what drove many of us to apply for the ACHSM Health Management Internship Program.

As the congress progressed, we had the opportunity to hear from an incredible range of people with many perspectives both from within Australia and internationally. Presentations were given on women in leadership, workforce issues and keeping ourselves healthy just to name a few.  

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Prof. Paul Kelly’s key note presentation was truly fascinating and most inspiring. Learning about his extensive contribution during the COVID-19 pandemic, and his various plans and advice related to virus suppression and climate action in healthcare enlightened us to the workings and the future directions of the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care. There were many laughs when he told us of the planned CDC - Centre for Disease Control, except that here it would be called the Australian Centre for Disease Control -  or ACDC! It would of course require a theme song and many excellent choices were proposed through the presentation and Q&A to great laughter.

A big thank you to the ACHSM board and special guests who attended the Intern VIP Lunch and took  the time to talk with us, share their perspectives and experiences. It was fantastic to connect with leaders in health from around Australasia.  Having the opportunity to have in-depth conversations created a particular atmosphere that made us feel privileged to be able to share our experience and plans with these esteemed members. Here, many interns were able to share their progress with key mentors and coordinators, and receive support to continue developing in areas of passion in both their workplaces and their studies.

The congress dinner was the unrivalled highlight of the three-day event. Healthcare leaders and all delegates appeared as cowboys and cowgirls, in keeping with the “Wild, Wild West” theme of the evening. We had a delicious three-course meal coupled with a generous amount of champagne. We cheered for those who won prizes for best costumes, sang along to the fabulous band playing much loved songs (of a slightly older demographic than us 😊), then when enough champaign had been consumed, we joined our fellow delegates on the dancefloor and danced the night away.

The value of the face-to-face time together cannot be understated. With most of our communication together as Interns so far taking place virtually due to the pandemic, it was so great to spend time together in-person getting to know each other better and comparing and learning from our experiences. It was particularly great to meet the Victorian Interns, share the highs and lows of our journeys so far, and enjoy some of the Perth food and nightlife together throughout the week.

Meeting the key-industry sponsors who generously supported the event was also worthwhile, as they offered industry knowledge, displayed their services and provided us with a few take-way goodies from their booths.

As a group the interns have reflected on the experience, and there have been many comments that the networking aspect was certainly our biggest takeaway. We all left feeling inspired (and with some new LinkedIn connections!), and we look forward to meeting again in Canberra next year.

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