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It’s Good to Talk: Reflections from the IFMSA General Assembly in Ghana

The medical community is a global one – probably an obvious statement, particularly if you read this PLoS blog!  However, as a medical student, it doesn’t always seem that way.  Meeting the global medical community is something you hope for when you’re a “Real” Doctor.

Which is why it is so exciting for this second blog on behalf of Medsin-UK to reflect on the recent International Federation of Medical Student Associations (IFMSA) General Assembly (GA) in Accra, Ghana, attended by a 12-strong Medsin-UK delegation of medical students from all over the UK.   I direct you to the brilliant series of blogs written by the delegates during their week there (,) and pick out some highlights to share with you here from their blog entries.  The IFMSA conducts its activities through its six Standing Committees (SC), and I’ll briefly take you through some of the achievements of the UK delegation.

Kevin Garrity and Marion Matheson sat on the SC for Medical Education, where they developed policy statements on Widening Access to Medical Education.  Whilst this is something the British Medical Association (BMA) has been promoting in the UK, it is great to have an international statement on this important issue.  In addition, they ran a workshop with another country’s delegation on advocacy and government lobbying.  Having attended an IFMSA last year, I think it’s easy for us to take for granted the advocacy work we can freely do in the UK, and as Marion’s blog entry explains, this sharing of ideas means we can work together to improve student representation and lobbying work all over the world.

The Medsin-UK delegation at IFMSA 2012 Accra, Ghana

Matthew Tuck and Hollie Kluczewski, representing the UK on the SC for Reproductive Health and AIDs, explored issues surrounding healthcare for HIV positive patients in different countries and for other stigmatized groups within healthcare systems around the world.  As Hollie puts it ‘ there’s a positive hum and it’s buzzing about the youth voice… they want to know your opinions, how our education system works, how we advocate… and they want to know how to do it too’.

Medsin-UK National Coordinators Felicity Jones and Dan Knights will have had an exhausting week in their daily Presidential sessions, which went on well into the early hours of the morning.  But Felicity’s blog notes how the diverse social and cultural differences between different countries and their representative organisations demonstrates how it is possible to ‘adapt to unique challenges’ to the same greater goal of a better world through collaboration.

The rest of the delegation (Jonny Meldrum, Nathan Highton, Juliet Drummond, Sarah-Jane Lang, Leon Cohen and Mike Kalmus-Eliasz) who worked in the other SCs (Professional Exchanges, Research Exchanges, Public Health, and Human Rights and Peace) contributed significantly to the assembly, running transnational projects, running discussion groups, presentations, workshops and training sessions, and developing international policy statements.  In particular, Mike and Jonny did an incredible job promoting ‘Think Global’, facilitating Think Global training and information sessions at both the pre-GA meeting and throughout the GA.  Mike is now the Coordinator for Think Global, and will continue to take the Global Health message to students all over the world.

Medsin-UK and international medical students during small group working

Reading the blogs, there are two overwhelming messages that come across from the delegates – the first was converting the feelings of trepidation (will I have anything to say?  Do I know enough?) into those of confidence (as Hollie says – ‘I’ve managed to find my voice’).  Being part of a vibrant, knowledgeable gathering of hundreds of medical students is a great opportunity to share and learn.  It is exciting to think both of the ideas shared by Medsin-UK which have now travelled to various corners of the world, and conversely what our delegation have brought back to the UK.

The second message is one of friendship and community.  Medicine is often perceived as a career of high achieving, powerful forces.  But it’s also a career of people, and it is clear that the delegation only learned and achieved what they did through the inspirational delegates the met from the global medical student community.

Did you go to the IFMSA General Assembly? Leave a comment and tell us about your experience!

Karin Purshouse

Karin Purshouse is a final year medical student at Newcastle University and was Chair of the British Medical Association’s Medical Students Committee (BMA MSC) 2010-11.  She has been involved with Sexpression and Medsin since 2006, and was part of the Medsin-UK delegation to the International Federation of Medical Student Associations (IFMSA) August Meeting 2011. She also blogs here:

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