AMSA Global Health Conference 2021: Bridging the gap between nutrition and medicine

We engaged with the new generation of health professionals at the AMSA Global Health Conference 2021 in Perth and gained some important insight on what medical students think about the role of nutrition in healthcare. Learn more about this event and why improving nutrition education in medical schools is a key step to achieving a healthier society.

A person feeling their stomach.

On 6-7th August more than 250 medical students came together in Perth, Australia for a few inspiring days of learning and fun at the annual AMSA Global Health Conference 2021. Doctors For Nutrition were there to engage with students and raise the importance of nutrition in healthcare.

Conference highlights

With this year’s conference theme ‘Seeds for change’, it was a perfect occasion for DFN to spark interesting conversations with future doctors about a healthcare system that embraces evidence-based nutrition as the first line of defence.

A large number of students visited the DFN stall for information on the benefits of plant-based eating. The DFN team consisted of Nutrition and Research Development Lead, Dr Angela Genoni, Neuroscience PhD Student, Hugo Morandini, and DFN Ambassadoc for Western Australia, Dr Alyce Churchill. Our team was on-hand during the conference, educating the delegates about the important role of nutrition in medical practice and distributing free practical resources.

Dr Angela Genoni said: “Some of the students approaching our stall have already been following vegan or vegetarian lifestyles and were engaging with more in-depth conversations on the benefits of plant-based eating for long-term health.”

“In contrast, we also spoke to a large number of students who confessed that they didn’t know much about nutrition as they were not taught about nutrition in medical school”, added Hugo Morandidi.

On the second day of the conference, Dr Angela Genoni delivered a short talk on ‘The Power of Plants’ where approximately 60 medical students had a chance to learn more about how plant-based nutrition can reduce rates of developing chronic disease.

More than 100 ‘Plant-based nutrition and health’ toolkits were distributed to students to assist them in facilitating nutritional advice during patient consultations.

The DFN team agreed that students' interest in the benefits of plant-based eating was very reassuring. “Students understood very quickly why we needed to be here. It felt we were at the right place at the right time", explained Hugo Morandini.

The gap in nutrition education

“A plant-based diet is a powerful prescription for good health. Many of the world’s leading killers – from heart disease and type 2 diabetes to certain types of cancer – can be prevented by focusing our diets on plant-based foods”, said Dr Neal Barnard, President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and DFN International Advisor.

Yet historically, nutrition education is not a major focus of medical training internationally, including in Australia. According to a 2019 study, medical students receive very little nutrition education during medical school. This educational gap makes it very difficult for medical graduates to provide preventative, evidence-based nutrition advice that could help optimise patients' long-term health and combat chronic conditions.

Medical students speaking about nutrition

During the conference, the DFN team had a chance to ask medical students what they