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Written by Zuzanna Bien, University of Oxford Medical School

With the generous support of the George Lewith Prize established by the NIHR School for Primary Care Research I was able to attend the 47th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Society for Academic Primary Care held in the Barbican Centre in London from 10-12 July. 

The theme of the conference – Populations on the Move – felt very current in the present political climate. As the response of the USA and many European countries to migration has become increasingly negative, it was important to focus on how the healthcare system can step in to support migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in the hostile environment they enter. The ideas discussed ranged from very practical solutions, like a linguistic manual that two medical students, Aisha McHayle and Alejandra Martin Segura, devised whilst on placement in a diverse GP practice in Ealing; to philosophical discussions about the ethics of research on vulnerable populations presented by Roghieh Dehghan Zaklaki.

Many of the presentations put emphasis on qualitative research, letting the silenced minorities speak for themselves and challenging the presumptions that we, as health care professionals, often make about needs and wants of the underserved populations. I especially enjoyed the Creative Enquiries – short art pieces presented alongside oral presentations, which used the medium of art to enrich the scientific programme and re-focus the audience on the human aspect of problems discussed. 

As a medical student, I was also pleased to see a lot of research focused on innovation in medical education. In one of the presentations, Neelam Parmar spoke about the emotional reactions that students can express in response to Communication Skills teaching – an issue which I experienced first-hand in my own teaching sessions and was glad to see discussed at a national conference attended by leaders in medical education. 

I left the conference feeling more aware of the role of the health care profession in helping vulnerable migrant populations and more equipped to deal with these issues as a clinician in the future. I would like to thank the NIHR School for Primary Care Research and the George Lewith Prize committee for giving me this fantastic opportunity for personal and professional development.