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KUMA Health Awareness Day 2022: where everyone HAD a wonderful day

The Health Awareness Day is an annual one-day community outreach event which has the aims of:  improving the health of the Korean population in London and improving their interaction with the NHS (National Health Service) in the UK. It is an open event where information on common chronic conditions and NHS services are provided by the doctors and medical students of KUMA (Korean UK Medical Association) to participants in addition to taking their medical observations and providing a free environment for them to talk to healthcare professionals in a less formal setting.

 

I first heard about KUMA by word of mouth through a friend who is an NHS senior registrar in the organization. He encouraged me to volunteer for the Health Awareness Day event as it would be a great opportunity for me to meet fellow Korean doctors while lending a helping hand. So, despite the distance from Manchester to London, I got curious and signed up to volunteer.

 

On the afternoon of May 28, I arrived at the Korean Culture and Arts Centre in New Malden with no idea on what to expect. I entered the building for registration and I was pleasantly surprised to see about thirty doctors ranging from first year medical students to consultants preparing to deliver the program. The first person who welcomed me was Dr. Ha, the president of the organization. After a quick introduction, he introduced me to other doctors. This was one of the things I appreciated throughout the event: everyone was fostering a warm sense of community and tried to connect one person to another.

 

All of the volunteers were served a tasty Korean lunch provided by the Korean UK Senior Association and were then given instructions on how to help. I was assigned to welcome and usher the guests from the entrance. Once the program itself started, the venue was packed with local Korean citizens who were seated in the room. A variety of lectures ranging from stroke, hypertension and diabetes to age-related ophthalmic conditions were delivered by specialists in easily digestible sessions. The lectures were then followed by the division of the room into individual stations for checking blood pressure, BMI, blood glucose, otoscopy, and general booths for medical advice and more information on the NHS app. 

 

I manned the Nutrition Advice booth with two other foundation doctors and we gave general advice on how to improve the participants’ diets based on their individual chronic conditions. It was rewarding to talk to many Korean elders in our native language as they reminded me of my own parents and grandparents. However, after talking to a couple of them, I observed two different groups of elders. In the first group were those who were generally healthy and just needed a listening ear. It is quite difficult to put into words the wonderful feeling of watching a grandmother’s face light up after ten minutes of talking to you, even when she’s done most of the talking. 

 

The second group of elderly participants I noticed were the ones who could really use a thorough medical check-up, but have been refusing to visit the GP clinic for years. It was a stark contrast to the majority of elders in Korea where they know all the local doctors and nurses by name. When I asked why they haven’t visited their doctors, their reasons ranged from not feeling comfortable speaking to a foreign doctor, the waiting time was too long, or that they felt that their concerns were dismissed. It saddened me deeply listening to their concerns and I wished I could do more for them. Time went by quickly, and we said our “thank you’s” and “goodbyes” to the elders with our tummies and hearts fuller than when we’d arrived. The event ended with a feedback meeting where everyone was encouraged to contribute to how we would improve the event going ahead.

 

Overall, the Health Awareness Day this year was a success. Through the collective efforts and collaboration of Korean doctors all around the country, many Korean elders went home with a better understanding of both their health and the NHS system. Personally, I look forward to contributing more to the event next year and encourage someone new to join this growing community.

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Written by Jinju Jhung (medical student, KUMAS)