Context: International conferences offer an excellent opportunity for career development and are global academic opportunities with the potential to foster educational and professional growth. However, equitable access to participation and meaningful involvement in such events remains an issue. In this paper we describe the novel 'Rural Early Career Ambassador Integration' project and its implications for the 2022 World Rural Health Conference held at the University of Limerick, Ireland.
Project: The project offered vertical and cross-country collaborative opportunities to early career professionals with a passion for rural medicine. Three ambassadors of diverse nationalities, ethnicities and professional backgrounds were selected. They bore no personal cost for travel, transport or accommodation relating to the conference. Each ambassador was matched to and clinically shadowed an expert rural general practitioner for a week preceding the conference, who provided mentorship. Mentors and ambassadors collaborated on goal-setting and work-planning throughout the conference, and were offered one-on-one career and networking support. The ambassadors were welcomed and integrated within a larger working party, the WONCA Working Party for Rural Health.
Lessons Learned: The project was well received by conference delegates and organisers and achieved its stated goal of enhancing conference equity through the representation and meaningful involvement of diverse early career professionals. Vertical and cross-country collaboration generated actionable policy implications as is evidenced by the ambassadors’ co-authorship on the 'The Limerick Declaration on Rural Healthcare'. Though sponsorship for these initiatives remains a challenge, this project highlights the importance of actively including early career professionals at international conferences.