Medical schools equip students with the knowledge and skills to undertake the technical practice of medicine. It has been argued that there is inadequate attention paid to the shaping of the future generation to function safely and enable them, in exercising leadership, to transform and improve healthcare.

So says an article entitled The social movement drive: a role for junior doctors in healthcare reform published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. The article explores the challenges and opportunities facing student and young doctors, and the great potential they have for transforming current practices. While the article focuses on the role they can take in driving safer health practices, the content is highly relevant for young doctors looking to create changes or take actions to address the climate and environmental impacts on health.

The article provides examples and pathways that show that leading change in healthcare is not an insurmountable task for junior doctors. The authors list key strategies as: having effective working relationships, using narrative to provide context, having a strategy to mobilise resources and acting to provide measurable effects. The section on using narrative provides powerful tools for doctors looking to spread the message on the environmental impacts on health. In it, Marshall Ganz of Harvard University says:

Social movement leaders must communicate their vision. Ganz calls this a new ‘public narrative’ that consists of a story of self, a story of us and a story of now.

The story of our planet and its valuable resources is one that doctors are uniquely placed to tell. And, as the article points out, junior doctors and students are also uniquely placed to see new strategies and mobilise new actions to effect change.

Change can perhaps present as an unwelcomed burden for the already busy junior doctor. Despite this, students and junior doctors are independently seeking skills to lead change… Knowledge and reflection combined with personal courage may be the key assets for confronting cultural resistance to change in healthcare. Junior doctors must embrace the current climate and be the architects of high quality services for patients. The time to act is now.

Park Doctor sees the Earth as one of our most important patients. The time to act is, indeed, now.


Read the full article: The social movement drive: a role for junior doctors in healthcare reform.