Thursday 30-6-2011 is the last day of most end of financial year sales in Australia but more importantly it is the first day of the Australian Medical Student Association Global Health Conference! So a whole day of conference nerdiness made me a very happy man, and theres a whole week of convention to go! It is times like these that I’m very glad to be a medical student studying in Australia and I urge any other medical students who has not attended ASMA convention and/or GHC to highly consider attending it next year or at least before you graduate from medical school.
The speakers were amazing today. I heard a talk from a doctor who used to be an opthalmology registrar, then became a consultant in a business management firm and is now working in public health, allocating healthcare funds to NGOs and international organizations. She is currently working with the Gates Foundation to figure out a way to best allocate funds for healthcare in developing nations. There was a talk by a professor about macroeconomics and its impacts on determinants of health. Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir, Governor of NSW gave a short speech and opened the convention. Professor Patrick McGorry, Australian of the Year 2010, Executive Director of Orygen Youth Health gave a talk and there was a forum discussion comprising of representatives from international NGOs like World Vision, MSF, Red Cross, etc. they even had the CEO of Grameen Bank Australia to be a panel in the forum. For those of you who don’t know, Grameen Bank is a bank based in Bangladesh that is one of the pioneers of microfinance, meaning they give out tiny loans, e.g. 20 dollars to poor people and help them make a living. They believe that if too much aid is given, a country tend to become dependent on it but if you give them small loans, people tend to own up to it and make a living for themselves:
Give a man a fish, he has a meal
Teach a man how to fish and he has a profession.
Basically it was a great first day at GHC and people I met are really people who you should aspire to become but what I want to write about today are patents.
Lieutenant Colonel Dr Michael Campion was one of the speakers today. He serves in the Australian Army, is an O&G, helped in developing the HPV vaccine which is saving the lives of countless women and help set up the first Rape Crisis centre in Sydney, just to name some of his achievements. He talked about many topics including trauma and casualty of servicemen in war.
When an improvised explosive device (IED) detonates, ground forces usually receive trauma to their limbs because their body armour helps absorb a lot of the force on impact. So what they have is a tactical tourniquet on each limb. If one of their limbs get blown off, the will tighten the tourniquet and stop themselves from dying from uncontrolled haemorrhage.
A guy, invented, did the research and wrote the paper on this tourniquet, I forgot his name, unfortunately I didn’t write it down but he did not apply for a patent on it. This reminded me of Jonas Salk, the doctor who made the polio vaccine. He didn’t get a patent on the vaccine and the result is that polio is almost eradicated because the vaccine is so cheap to produce. However in this case, an American company took the design of the combat tourniquet, patented it and claimed it as one of their own.
This made me upset for a while. Here you have a guy who thought of a solution to a problem and decided not to profit from it. Then comes a corporation took the idea and is making all the profit on it. By the way, every single American coalition ground troop has one on each limb. Imagine how much that company is making. I guess that is the dark side of business. If corporations are humans, some will see it as a soulless person who only thinks about its bottom line. Don’t get me wrong, I love business and corporations and capitalism but it is easy to see how some people perceive it as being the devil.
In an ideal economic world, everything you do has a price to it. Too bad we don’t live in an ideal world.
Well I hope this company is doing good with this patent. I hope they are doing more research in the area and I hope they are looking for different ways of application like everyday first aid or how they can use it in ambulances. I hope they are not just holding the patent, making a massive profit from it and not doing anything else about it.
So tell me what do you think about this? If you were to invent something, should you patent it? Why not? Or why so?
If I were to invent something, I’ll most definitely patent it so that my invention is protected and I have control over what I wanna do with it. That is what a patent is for in the first place.
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Next post Sunday