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Defining what we do

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October—spring in the Southern Hemisphere and this year an especially beautiful one in Cape Town—saw over 600 delegates from 35 countries attend a conference there entitled “Emergency Medicine in the Developing World”. Hosted jointly by the Emergency Medicine Society of South Africa and the Universities of Stellenbosch and Cape Town, it had dual themes: one a standard scientific programme as in most conferences, and the other—as the title suggests—one of how our specialty can develop, is developing, or has already developed in the developing world. Some First World nations where the specialty is nascent also attended.

The meeting was a great success, both in content and organisation. There were comparisons of international emergency medicine with countries as far apart geographically and socially as Azerbaijan, Argentina, Tanzania, Papua New Guinea, the UK, the USA and Australia (among others) reporting their experiences. Topics covered were interesting and eclectic. What is the definition of emergency medicine in the developing world? How do you create something from nothing? Is there a role for “ambassadors” from countries where the specialty is well …

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