Can we all be lawyers of the less fortunate?

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Antonio Guevara Lopez, a fourth-year medical student at the Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal. He is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


We all live in blessed times. The scientific and technological progress of our time is unbelievable. And it does not seem to stop any sooner… In fact, the century before ours saw enormous improvements in prosperity, life expectancy and quality of life. This was a consequence of improved nutrition, water, housing and sanitation, as well as the rapid development of science that has provided us with modern miracles that allow us to save countless lives. Recently, we saw different vaccines being created in just months in order to fight a vírus that we all had some encounters with.

All of this progress is remarkable, but in fact health inequalities within society have increased in parallel. These inequalities do real harm to a lot of people around the World. Social injustice is killing people on a grand scale…

In a lot of countries, life expectancy is no longer improving for those in our most deprived communities, and this is linked to recent policies of austerity. The economic interests of some business sectors conflict with the priorities for public health. In fact, many of the achievements in disease prevention that have improved our life expectancy show marked disparities within our society.

As future physicians, we all know that our profession has a major role in disease prevention, in education campaigns to increase health literacy, and much more. However, it’s undeniable that disease itself is often the manifestation of wider societal issues, and if you do not take that into consideration, the gap will just increase.

It is true that Doctors are seen by the general public as someone very relevant and having the power to change things for the better not just in matters of illnesses, but beyond that. But we, medical students, can also have an important role. So, the question arises – how can we contribute to a meaningful change?

Rudolf Virchow onde said that Medicine is a social science, and politics nothing but medicine at a larger scale. We all can be powerful advocates of the less fortunate. If altruism, fight for social justice is what draws us pursue a beautiful medical career, let’s work on that.

Our theoretical training will raise awareness of health inequality issues, but it is crucial that we witness and experience what happens in the real world to truly perceive its impact. Many of us that enter medical school have a limited sight of how different communities and backgrounds live their lives, and how constrained are they in their ability to access healthcare.

Expanding the horizons of medical students is of the utmost importance. And that starts in the curriculum of medical schools. Effective learning can be boosted by exposure to different situations (and reflect on those) than just answering multiple-choice questions, contributing the latter to the standardisation and the narrowing of educational focus from the complexities of daily medicine.

Let us not just read another story of health inequality and start to change the lines, start to change history…

About the author

Antonio Guevara Lopez is a fourth-year medical student at the Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal. He is a scientific researcher and communicator. He currently is the scientific vice-president of the Aerospace Medicine and Life Science Student Club in Portugal and also participates in a lot of volunteering projects. He believes that we all can be better professionals, better persons every day and fight for a world with more kindness, higher tolerance, more compassion, less hate and envy with just small acts of random kindness.

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