*Medical Student, ANU
Altruism [al-troo-iz-uhm] /–noun
The principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others1.
As appreciated in David Corbet’s article ‘Altruism, charity and the Alumni of the ANU Medical School’ in the last edition of MSJA2, students of the ANU Medical School have consistently demonstrated that altruism and generosity are prevailing qualities amongst current and previous cohorts. The definition of altruism connotes a relationship of an individual towards others. As medical students and eventually doctors, we are privileged to have daily opportunities to express this quality in our interaction with patients and colleagues.
Under the societal pressures of time, resources and natural desire for status and wealth, it is easy to see how altruistic aspirations can become a lesser driving force over the duration of a demanding career. However, the fortune of our education and our income as doctors puts us in a unique position to utilise the evident spirit of generosity on a local and global scale. Current Year 4 students have responded to this challenge by birthing the concept of a.d.a.p.t. – ANU Doctors’ Association and Philanthropic Trust.
The aim of a.d.a.p.t. is to commission all graduates of the ANU Medical School to contribute through generosity to spread the wealth of the world, reduce poverty and improve living standards of those in need. Using the power of a group of like-minded people, we want to inspire and channel the quality of altruism through philanthropy. Practically speaking, a.d.a.p.t. encourages graduates to pledge a consistent percentage of their income to effective charitable organisations for the duration of their career. In doing so our goal is to create a culture amongst ANUMS students, graduates and the wider community, whereby sharing of our wealth, in terms of money and skills, becomes a valued norm.
There are several reasons to be optimistic that changing the culture of giving on a group scale can have measurable impacts on problems of inequity. Firstly, ‘establishing a culture of giving begets more giving’2. Secondly, pooling resources in a combined effort enhances the power to change outcomes of poverty compared to individual endeavours. Thirdly, under the proposed model the resources available for donation by a.d.a.p.t. will grow exponentially each year as more doctors graduate, progress through training, increase their earning capacity and acquire a unique set of skills we can share. In fact, with conservative estimates based on donation of as little as 1% of our income, Corbet predicts that a.d.a.p.t. can raise more than $270,000 within three years2, with a snowballing effect into the future. Figure 1 illustrates that in comparison to the amount of change it can effect, this amount of donation is relatively inconsequential to an individual.
Figure 1. One percent of income in perspective
The model of a.d.a.p.t. is to begin by facilitating relationships between individual ANU graduates and nominated charities under the banner of a.d.a.p.t., with regular ongoing donations upon commencement of internship. The amount of donation will be known only by the charitable organisation, and will be determined by each individual. While donation of any amount is welcomed, we advocate for committing to an income percentage. At the end of each financial year each charity will provide a.d.a.p.t. with a de-identified total amount they have received from a.d.a.p.t. as well as a summary of their achievements and ongoing projects. We have begun to set up partnerships with charitable organisations including Tear Australia3, the Red Cross4, St Vincent de Paul5 and Hamlin Fistula Foundation6, after nomination of these charities from current students.
Two notable causes with their roots at the ANU Medical School – EnSIGN’s own Fiji Village Project (FVP) and the One Disease at a Time (ODAAT) initiative – also look to become a.d.a.p.t. partners. The FVP brings together medical students from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands to achieve significant outcomes such as health checks, health education and water supply to villages in Fiji7. One Disease at a Time is a new philanthropic organisation aiming to assist in the eradication of certain infectious diseases in Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander communities in collaboration with the Menzies School of Health Research, and with inspiration from the elimination of donovanosis in Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander populations8. Its goal is to eradicate scabies within seven years and expanding in the future to tackle syphilis and rheumatic fever.
philanthropy [fi-lan-thruh-pee]/ –noun
Altruistic concern for human welfare and advancement, usually manifested by donations of money, property, or work to needy persons, by endowment of institutions of learning and hospitals, and by generosity to other socially useful purposes9.
Here I would like to extend Corbet’s definition of philanthropy to include donation of our work and resources, as members of learning institutions and hospitals. The involvement of FVP and ODAAT is especially exciting as it provides the foundation for future possible home-grown developments for a.d.a.p.t.. Eventually the vision of a.d.a.p.t. entails development of our own not-for-profit organisation to which members can contribute by donations of money, skills or time. For example a.d.a.p.t. could fund member doctors to undertake short-term work with FVP, ODAAT, or in chosen communities, potentially taking medical elective students from ANU with them. The possibilities are endless! For a schema of the a.d.a.p.t. concept, see Figure 2.
Figure 2. The vision of a.d.a.p.t. (Click here for a bigger version of the image)
We are lucky at medical school to be part of a cohort of students from a wide range of cultures, experiences, personal philosophies and religious beliefs. One of the strengths of a.d.a.p.t. is that it appeals to people from a variety of backgrounds. Personally, I appreciate its consistency with Christian values of tithing and compassion. For others it may be appealing because of its congruity with the pursuit of social justice, or with moral precepts of egalitarianism, selflessness, beneficence, charity or generosity. Whatever one’s perception of its principles, a.d.a.p.t. has the potential to unify its members and focus our resources to help people in need.
We are currently seeking expressions of interest and suggestions for the administrative structure of a.d.a.p.t. Any questions, feedback, suggestions or interest are welcomed to Alicia Paul (firstname.lastname@example.org) and David Corbet (email@example.com). More information will be available shortly at http://www.adaptcharity.org/.
I would like to thank David Corbet for his ceaseless inspiration and support, and his help with the figures presented here.