Embracing change in Irish healthcare

When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.
John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)

It has been an eventful year in Ireland, to say the least. The scale of the political and economic upheaval faced by the country has left the healthcare system facing new challenges. From politics to healthcare, now, more than ever before, we need to do things differently if we expect a change. With talk of existing systems collapsing, it would be productive for emerging doctors to instead recognise this time as an opportunity for complete participation and engagement with issues that influence the quality of healthcare that they will provide.

One such opportunity for change is the willingness of the medical community to accept innovation. Undoubtedly medical innovation presents challenges, but why should that prevent us from pursuing it? Ankit Kapur addresses the eHealth infrastructure in Ireland and where it has placed itself in approaching medicine in the digital age (see here). Furthermore, William Johnson and Julian Davis acknowledge the latest advances in artificial hearts and cancer stem cells, respectively (see here and here). On the physiotherapy front, Aideen Henry provides an in-depth look into the evolving role of the paediatric physiotherapist in Ireland (see here).

This edition presents seemingly disparate articles that address a unifying message – we cannot let medicine in Ireland trail behind. Keith Pilson acknowledges the need for healthcare professionals in Ireland to assess their cultural competence and addresses this in the context of the Irish Traveller community (see here). Further, Rohini Boddu takes an impartial look at the long-standing abortion debate in Ireland, with recent events in the European Court of Human Rights that perhaps warrant a reflection on the existing legislation (see here).

Following the overwhelming response to our ethics challenge last year, we present the third instalment of the RCSIsmj Ethics Challenge to address the growing need for ethical reflection in medicine (see here). William Osler said that doctors should have a cool head and a kind heart and the same is true with medical ethics, says the ethicist Daniel Sokol. With this in mind, I would encourage students to attempt the Ethics Challenge in a bid to further their understanding of this minefield and to start thinking critically and logically.

The RCSIsmj is a student-led initiative that was founded as a medium to promote student authorship and in turn foster the next generation of researchers and scientists. I would like to thank all our contributors and participants for giving us the opportunity to read and present their stellar work.

This edition has witnessed unparalleled enthusiasm from students in medicine, physiotherapy and pharmacy. This reflects our fundamental need to inform and be informed. Finally, I hope that readers engage with the material presented in the following pages and form an educated opinion on the issues raised in this edition and those to follow. For better or for worse, our informed opinions and sharing of ideas have the capacity to influence the future of healthcare.

Rowena Almeida
Chief Editor, RCSIsmj 2010/2011

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