In June 2022, WH&Y Commissioners Jason Ton and Emily Morrison were the special guests of a University of Sydney initiative aimed at exposing second-year medical students to the needs and perspectives of teenagers and young adults. As part of the annual Back to Basics Adolescent Medicine symposia, Jason and Emily visited four groups of students, sharing their thoughts on what it means to deliver ‘adolescent-friendly’ health consultations, and answering the questions posed by students.

Jason, himself a medical student at Western Sydney University, had reservations as to whether his personal experiences and reflections on the health system could be extrapolated to represent the experiences of young Australians more broadly - but he also saw undeniable value in the exercise.

“I was excited to help the students learn more about adolescent health, hopefully providing them with a beneficial overview within a short-time frame,” he says. “The main takeaway message Emily and I wanted to convey was that teenagers are nuanced, and assumptions shouldn’t be made concerning our social history. We should be given the opportunity to explain our unique backgrounds and have a patient treatment plan tailored to our needs.”

“We wanted to convey the importance of treating us as equals, including making sure that adolescents and young adults understand their rights to privacy and confidentiality,” adds Emily, a science student. “We also wanted to clearly express the effect that family, friends, culture, religion and geographic location have on a young adult’s health. We expressed the importance of inclusivity, respect, access to health records and access to the healthcare system.”

Dr Jonathan Chandran, a doctor at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, and a member of the Royal Australian College of Physicians (RACP) Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine Committee, was one of the organisers of this year’s event. Jonathan was delighted to see the students absorbing the insights provided by the WH&Y Commissioners, and eagerly taking notes as they spoke.  

“We really valued having Emily and Jason at the Back to Basics Adolescent Medicine symposia,” he says. “They provided our future doctors with the opportunity to learn about the important things that young people value when engaging with medical staff and the healthcare system.”

The experience was just as rewarding, and gratifying, for Emily.

“I was blown away by the maturity, inclusivity and understanding of the medical students,” she says. “They listened and took on board each point we presented, which made me feel as if we were helping to make a change in the treatment of young adults in healthcare.”