By Siobhán O’Connor:
You may wonder as a busy PhD student why you should spend your precious time applying for postgraduate scholarships. You no doubt have a million and one deadlines, a growing stack of articles to read, and a very rough draft of a paper you swore you’d finish weeks ago. However if you have an interest in public health here are my top 10 reasons why you should apply for a Young Forum Gastein (YFG) scholarship.
- The YFG scholarship is much more than a travel bursary to attend the European Health Forum Gastein (http://www.ehfg.org/) conference. It also incorporates a jam-packed programme that enables you to interact with over 70 other Young Gasteiners. These scholars are a diverse mix of researchers, policy advisors, economists, doctors, nurses and many other clinicians from all across Europe, who are working in public health. They are eager to share their knowledge and experiences with you which are invaluable to a fledgling researcher.
- As the YFG scholarship is jointly sponsored by the International Forum Gastein, the European Commission and the World Health Organisation (WHO), the speakers and delegates at the EHFG conference are senior academics, researchers and policy analysts as well as Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), senior staff from the European Commission, the WHO, industry, and patient organisations. Making these types of contacts at an early stage in your career can give you many more options in the future and help you realise that there is life after your PhD!
- Although I have a particular interest in digital health and lapped up the two sessions on eHealth, there is a broad range of public health topics covered. I gained just as much from attending sessions about public health leadership, personalized medicine, and EU health policy to name a few as they gave me new perspectives from which to view my own research. Whatever your area you will find something that intrigues and inspires you.
- This forum is also a great way to promote our own research, as there is an opportunity to present a poster. Although only a few are selected, it is worth submitting an abstract as it’s a great experience. You get to practice your presentation and communication skills, and the feedback can really enhance your research.
- Getting involved in a working group in another option where you can participate in writing blogs on conference proceedings, interviewing senior attendees, or contributing articles to the daily newsletter. Each working group also debates upcoming EU law such as the new Cross-Border Healthcare Directive. This is a great way to boost your confidence and help improve your written and oral communication skills.
- One element of the Young Gastein experience I really valued was the personalised mentoring session. I was lucky to be paired with Professor José Martín-Moreno, a professor of preventative medicine and public health at the University of Valencia. To say he crammed in as much career advice and guidance as possible in an hour is an understatement and it will definitely help to shape my future career choices.
- We also received a series of specialised careers talks; one from the WHO, the second from the European Commission, and the third from two public health consultancy firms. They all shared insights into their current roles, discuss how they progressed throughout their careers and outlined the skills that were needed in their professions. A frank Q&A session helped to us to gain an understanding of the pros and cons associated with these careers.
- For those of us with burning questions on how the new European parliament is going to tackle public health challenges, we got our questions answered at a one-to-one interview with the newly appointed EU Commissioner-designate for Health and Food Safety, Dr Vytenis Andriukaitis. We were able to pose any question or make a recommendation on what Europe should focus on until 2020. If you have a point to get across then this is the forum to do it.
- If you’ve very adventurous then you could also get the opportunity to practice your literary skills, by writing a poem which is broadcast live at the end of the conference, or participate in a video documentary which is available online. And don’t forget to tweet, tweet, tweet – a Young Gasteiner life skill that you will perfect throughout the week!
- And of course last but not least being a YFG scholar also means you get to visit beautiful Austria, where you can join early morning hikes into the Alpine mountains, practice yoga at sunrise, relax in the indoor saunas (warning ** these have nudist areas**), spend a day pottering around Salzberg, or try out local brews, gulasch, schnitzel, apfelstrudel and other delicacies. The list is literally endless!
If you are interested in applying check out the website at: http://www.ehfg.org/young-gastein.html or Twitter feed @YoungGasteiners.