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Medical students endure a year of strikes

The Daily speaks with MSS President Esli Osmanlliu

Correction appended April 19, 2012

You know it has been a difficult year for the McGill Medical Students’ Society (MSS) and its president Esli Osmanlliu when the MUNACA strike wasn’t the most trying strike of the academic year.

“It’s been a quite challenging year for me and the students in general,” said Osmanlliu.

The oldest student society at McGill – it has existed, in various forms, since 1859 – the MSS entered the academic year in the shadow of a potential strike by Quebec medical residents. The Fédération des médecins résidents du Québec (FMRQ) had been holding a teaching strike since early July, demanding wage parity with residents in other provinces and a reduction in the length of on-call shifts. The strike was upgraded to a general strike in September, leaving Osmanlliu and the MSS with little time to take a formal position.

“[The teaching strike] was quite important in terms of the educational impact it had on clerks,” students in their last two years of the medical curriculum, said Osmanlliu.

“Residents have a crucial role as teachers in the hospital setting,” he continued. “It’s a four-year program – you can’t afford to lose your rotation. You might never again have exposure to that speciality.”

The FMRQ strike ended a few hours after the general strike was called. The MUNACA strike, however, would have a longer and equally severe impact on the MSS. Osmanlliu said the MUNACA strike “was hard on different levels.”

“Very basic stuff like booking a room for a conference or a meeting, all this took much more time, and the people with whom you’re used to interacting suddenly changed,” he continued.

Osmanlliu helped the MSS form a committee tasked with informing students of the impacts of the strike and advocating for its cessation.

Outside of these unique disruptions, Osmanlliu had to further contend with the perennial MSS issues of underexposure and membership workload. He described the undergraduate Medicine curriculum as “pretty dense,” and something that can often make it difficult for MSS members to get involved in the greater McGill community.

“[The workload] makes it harder to reconcile everyone’s agendas and everyone’s schedules,” said Osmanlliu, who himself has to balance his duties as MSS president with his coursework and hospital shifts.

Osmanlliu said he has been trying to involve the MSS more in the McGill and Montreal community primarily through supporting student projects. To this end, Osmanlliu started the Community Involvement Program (CIP) – comprised of 38 student-led groups and clubs – to support students institutionally and financially consolidating projects.

“This year we’re really making a push to facilitate student projects which go a bit more in the sense of community outreach,” he said.

Osmanlliu said the MSS was also pushing for more inter-professional and inter-disciplinary projects involving other McGill faculties as a means of outreach.

“You really realize once you enter the clinical world it’s all about inter-disciplinary teamwork,” he said.

Osmanlliu has also taken steps towards improving MSS governance. Through the CIP, the MSS has created a roundtable for student clubs to solicit feedback, and has created the Committee for Strategic Planning and Community Involvement, a 14-member committee with representation from all four undergraduate years. The committee manages the society’s Community Involvement Fund, reporting back to the MSS executive based on surveys and the committee’s different projects.

“[With] student societies, one of the biggest problems is the very high, very fast turnover rate, so trying to overcome that and making sure that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every semester, we put forward this committee,” said Osmanlliu.

The MSS has been quiet politically this year, with the exception of a March 20 strike General Assembly (GA). More than 25 per cent of MSS members attended the GA, according to Osmanlliu. The vote for a one-day strike for the March 22 provincial day of action failed.

“I think students felt that student democracy won that night, and people realized that the MSS is there to represent everyone, and it’s very positive for a student society – the outcome of that GA,” he said.

In a previous version of this article, it stated that clerks where students in their last two years of pre-med. They are in fact in the last two years of the medical curriculum. The article also stated that the Committee for Strategic Planning and Community Involvement was empowered to make political and budgetary decisions. In fact, the committee manages the Community Involvement Fund and reports to the MSS executive. The article further stated that the FMRQ strike lasted a few hours; in fact it was the general strike which only lasted a few hours. The Daily regrets the errors