Siddharta Yadav: Waist size story

Last week I attended the 29th Asian Medical Students’ Conference (AMSC) in Tokyo along with 450 other medical students like me from 20 countries in Asia and Pacific. Our aim: to fight non-communicable diseases and promote a healthy lifestyle in the Asia and Pacific.

To be honest, my expectations from the conference were quite low. After all, what can you expect from a student conference? Do we, medical students, have enough knowledge to be talking on a vast topic such as non-communicable diseases? Are we even capable of commenting on health policies in our countries and Asia?

But what a conference it turned out to be! Not only was I proved wrong, but also left amazed as the conference unfolded what medical students are capable of. The quality of papers presented by students on the current scenario of health care and non-communicable diseases in their countries was, in my opinion, comparable to that of experts in this field.

And talking of experts, many big names from Japan (the regional director of WHO, doctors from AMDA, public health experts and clinical academics) guided us during the conference through their speeches and lectures. What was more interesting was that they did not just talk about non-communicable diseases but also gave invaluable and sometimes even philosophical suggestions regarding our career opportunities as doctors, public health experts and leaders.

The academic program deserves credit. It consisted of group discussions and field visits. The group discussions were conducted in problem based learning (PBL) style and each group was formed in such a way to include as many different countries as possible. The outcome: different perspectives from different countries.

The field visits provided an insight into the Japanese health care systems. It was during one of these field visits that we came across the “waist size story” program in a health centre. Having derived its name from a famous musical West Side Story, the program encourages people to exercise regularly to decrease their waist size. They even have a competition, quite like the TV program- the biggest loser, in which community members take an oath to reduce their waist size by a certain amount in four months.

The health centre also has cooking and exercise classes to teach about healthy lifestyles. They also have automatic machines around the town where common people can measure their blood pressure and weight for free.

But the conference was not all about academics. It was more about having fun and making friends than anything else. It was about enjoying the rich Japanese culture, eating our food with chopsticks, sightseeing in Tokyo and singing with friends in the karaoke bars.

No wonder we all cried and hugged each other during the closing ceremony. This is something that you will not probably see in any other international conference. This is the uniqueness of a student conference. Ten days is a short time but sticking together in a group made us so close to each other that the thought of parting was, indeed, a painful one.

Having returned to my country (Nepal) now, I am proud to have close friends all over Asia. This, perhaps, is the first step in our combined fight against non-communicable diseases in this region. A connected Asia- there could not have been a better way to begin with. There is so much to learn from each other. Yes! Asia has its own waist size story. It is getting smaller.

Siddharta Yadav is a medical student in Nepal and a former BMJ Clegg Scholar.

  • Dr.N.P.Viswanathan

    It is very nice to read the views of Siddharth yadav.It reminds me of the good old college days at bellary medical college India.Only by mingling with your colleagues and exchanging your views you can develop your personality and learn the facts of life and about medical profession. Such exposure as siddarth experienced is essential for every medical student.My good wishes to Siddarth.

  • Leo Seng

    I agree with Siddharta’s idea that student conferences are much different than doctors’. Having attended quite a few ‘grown-up’ doctors’ conferences, I have come to realize that you can only be colleagues in such conferences but never friends. I miss those student conferences where I used to make a lot of friends. Hope medical student conferences like AMSC keep on going and doctors’ conferences learn something from them instead of being boring and impersonal.

    Leo Seng

  • Good luck to you, Sidhartha, it is good to know that you are enjoying your studentship including attending such meetings like the one that you have described.
    One unique aspect of being a student in medicine is that you presumably have better undergraduate knowledge/teaching/learning because of the advances in medical knowledge, medical technology, a.s.o.and with this advanced knowledge comes a better understanding of diseases–more so the communicable diseases, which, if you think about it,are often the root causes of many non-communicable diseases.
    For example,the Mansonelliases and the Dirofilariases (filarial group) which have been ignored as ‘non-pathological’:but in view of the fact that these parasites’ DNA has been introduced into the human/animal system via bites from common insect vectors,(mosquitoes/midges), there is the Immune System Response/s to foreign DNA;another fact, pointed out in many recent text-books is that most of these filarial species/larvae travel throughout the body via ‘the circulation’.
    These facts combined with resulting patho-physiological phenomena, could alert us to the fact of plaque formation, eosinophilic/other granuloma formation, which when progressive, leads to arterial narrowing, arterial plaque, and so on, so we get into the realm of non-communicable diseases.

  • Iam very pleased at Siddhartha”s view about these student conference.These conferences not only make students aware about the existing problems but also encourages them to find and improve their research skills. It provides them an opportunity in improving communication skills. Making students particicpate in such conferences helps them to become more confident and present their views in a better way. All the best Siddhartha

    Dr Venu gopal Sirpa

  • Shyam Teegala

    It is very interesting to read about Dr. Yadav’s experiences in Tokyo. Lifestyle diseases are fast catching up in Asia . Health Centers must include such waist size centers. Such conferences help medical students to know about different countries and exchange ideas.

  • Akhilesh Tiwari

    It was nice reading Dr.Siddartha’s experiences in Japan.It’s always good for a medical professional to know the kind of activities and the ways they are being executed in different parts of the world .It helps students know about the current medical issues and learn the ways it’s dealt with, in countries away from their home.

  • Dr.Sanjay Pandey

    Its nice reading a thrilling experience of the kind that has been so well narrated.When I go back to my student days, we had mini student meets and they were very successful in giving that air of understanding colleagues, presentation and all that exists beyond the boundaries of our colege, campus, university and country as to how others do the same. Now having done umpteen trips across the globe into various specialised conferences I m still learning that there is so much to understand and know and pass it on. Congratulations Siddhartha. Good article with a bearing.