Cheers to an Eye-Opening IMGS

The IMGS was the best eye-opener I could have ever asked for as a COVID year master’s Candidate. Through COVID I, like so many, felt isolated and had not had the opportunity to gain an understanding of the depth of my field and the wonderful people in it! My experience at the IMGS helped me understand that I am a part of a community, a community of incredible medical geographers! The IMGS also helped me realize my deep desire to buy a kilt and eat delicious meat pies, but that is a subject for another day.

The IMGS also helped me answer a question people ask me all the time: “what are you studying?” I say that I am studying medical geography to which they reply, “wow that sounds great, but what is medical geography?” I then try my best to convey how cool medical geography is. Yet, I did not understand how awesome and expansive our field is until the IMGS.

Between great carb feasts I had the pleasure to learn about fascinating research in our field. Research foci ranged from COVID’s impact on food and hospitality workers, to how affordable housing is anti-colonial fortification. I am happy to say that every presentation I attended urged me to take a multifaceted approach when it comes to providing support and healthcare recommendations.

However, one of my favourite sessions was the equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) session. In this session, we engaged in a roundtable discussion in which delegates shared compassionate recommendations to improve the next IMGS, all of which were received so well by those in attendance. The recommendation that resonated most with me, was shared by Chúk Odenigbo presented: we as researchers must have a real connection with the communities we study, especially when researching groups who have been historically disenfranchised. In Chúk’s words: “it needs to be clear who is benefitting from the research, otherwise you are perpetuating colonialization… just studying subjects out of interest. This is how people have done harm in the name of science. This is how we as researchers undo the harm that has been done. Equity into what, diversity, into what, inclusion into what? We need to figure this out.” 

I could not agree more. I think there is so much opportunity to think critically about our practices to ensure that we are making the progress we need to make when it comes to EDI.

After the EDI session I began to reflect. I realized that so much of what we do is focused on identifying problems. However, now is the time to move away from what is wrong and move towards fixing the problems we have identified. Most importantly perhaps, we need to figure out who is going to fund us to do this important work. I personally find that question very inspiring and hope those reading this do too. That is the kind of inspiration I was hoping to get out of the IMGS.

Alas, a few days after arriving home, I was asked “what is medical geography?” I am happy to say that I was able to answer that question with new inspiration and a twinkle in my eye as I told them about the incredible work my new kick-ass medical geography friends are doing across the world. Thank you for the incredible experience IMGS! Up next… Atlanta!

Special thanks to the IMGS, the RGS-IBG Geographies of Health & Wellbeing Research Group, the AAG Disability Speciality Group, and the AAG Health & Medical Geography Specialty Group for making my position as the IMGS 2022 Social Media Correspondent possible!! It has truly been an honour.

Signing off! Sincerely,

Ampai Thammachack

Master’s Student, Queen’s University (Canada)

#IMGS2022 Social Media Correspondent