The educational culture in medical schools: an AMEE2014 symposium


cul·ture noun \ˈkəl-chər\: the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time

Culture is inevitable; you will find it in any possible group of people. If I would give some personal examples of culture I could talk about Dutch culture, where being modest is appreciated and showing off with money, power or anything else is not accepted; my family’s culture, where we always send a postcard for birthdays and give a call to thank the sender for the card; or the IFMSA culture, where all members go along with doing an energizer or dance “the hakka”. Within the medical profession and medical schools this isn’t any different; you could ask any doctor or medical student about typicalities they find in their working environment, either good or bad.

During the AMEE Conference 2014 in Milan the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) together with the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME) and the World Medical Association (WMA) organized an inspiring symposium on the culture in medical schools. Ms. Sijntje Dijk, IFMSA Director on Medical Education, facilitated the symposium.

The symposium started off with a talk from Prof. David Gordon, president elect of the WFME. He gave a brief overview of the changes medical school culture has gone through since he was a medical student. He also talked about the faculty’s perspective on the culture of medical schools, and in his opinion: “Med school culture should be one of a community, not ‘us’ and ‘them’. We need to work together and think 50 years into the future, and move away from our culture of short term thinking”. Professor Gordon was asked about how he saw the role of international organizations within changing the culture in medical schools. “We need to make the case for a better culture of social accountability, and be responsive to the needs of society.” Prof. Gordon emphasized the importance of students as prime movers and change makers, and vouched for the importance of joining the discussion with students throughout culture reform.

The doctors’ perspective on culture in medical schools was explained by Dr. Otmar Kloiber, Secretary General of the WMA. He related the subject to ethics: “Ethical behaviour needs to be lived and not demanded”, and called for more emphasis on the importance of doctors as role models in healthcare. He used the example of the ‘Declaration of Geneva’, adopted by the 2nd General Assembly of the World Medical Association and often referred to as the modern version of the Hippocratic Oath. “Whereas the Declaration of Geneva refers to students giving teachers the respect and gratitude that is their due, the Hippocratic Oath contains an element that sometimes seems to have gone lost. It states the obligation of doctors to be teachers as well”.


Mr. Agostinho Sousa, IFMSA Liaison Officer for Medical Education issues ended the symposium with a closing speech on the students’ perspective on culture in medical schools. What do students need? How can we together create the most stimulating learning environment? The important message he ended with is that people always say that students are the future, the ones that will change everything. But doesn’t it start right now? With the people that are currently in the role of doctors, deans and educators? They are the ones that need to lead the changes that have to be made in the culture in medical schools, and students are more than happy to provide any support they can give.

“Culture is the process by which a person becomes all that they were created capable of being.” – Thomas Carlyle

Rachel Bruls

IFMSA Regional Assistant for Medical Education in Europe and AMEE Student Task Force member

Our immense grattitude goes out to Prof. Gordon, Dr. Kloiber, the WFME and the WMA, not only for their support and presence and inspiring speeches during this symposium, but for their continuous support to and recognition of medical students worldwide.

I HAVE THE RIGHT TO RESEARCH. Access to research is a student right

I HAVE THE RIGHT TO RESEARCH. Access to research is a student right.
Update after the August Meeting General Assembly 2014

The IFMSA (International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations) together with the Right to Research Coalition are happy to announce that the Policy Statement on Open Access, Open Education and Open Data has been unanimously approved by the Federation during the last August Meeting General Assembly, that took place in Taipei, Taiwan from August 5th to August 11th.

The International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) believes in the importance of openness across all research outputs as an alternative to the current closed system of research.

Specifically, the IFMSA supports:
• Open Access, defined as the free, immediate, online availability of research articles with full reuse rights.
• Open Educational Resources, defined as high-quality educational materials that everyone is permitted to freely use, adapt, and share.
• Open Data, defined as data that can be freely used, shared and built-on by anyone, anywhere, for any purpose. 1

Since the first days of the preGeneral Assembly workshops that took place from August 1st to 5th Joe, Assistant Director of the Right to Research Coalition , contributed to the Research Integrity featuring Information and Communication Technologies preGA with sessions about not only OA, but also Open Education and Open Data – fundamental aspects of Research.4 Indeed Open Educational Resources (OER) provide a strategic opportunity to improve the quality of education as well as facilitate policy dialogue, knowledge sharing and capacity building. Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning or research materials that are in the public domanin or released with an intellectual property license that allows for free use, adaptation, and distribution. 2

In order to follow up with the great work done till now and make sure we will implement the PS in the IFMSA National Member Organizations and Medical Faculties we represent we are launching a survey. Our aim is to know more about your University and IFMSA Local Committee about Open Access, Open Education and Open Data policies and activities. Please take few minutes to fill in this form. Your participation is highly appreciated


The IFMSA will also contribute to the OpenCon Student Conference 2014 that will take place in Washington DC from November 15th to 16th 2014. You can apply in the new website

Do not miss this opportunity to be empowered to change research access and to gain leadership skills to facilitate a positive change!

See you in Washington DC!

Ivana Di Salvo, Joseph Mcarthur, Osman Aldirdiri

1. IFMSA Policy Statement Open Access, Open Education and Open Data, August Meeting General Assembly 2014 Taipei, Taiwan
4. For the participants to the preGA, but also for who did not participate and would be interested – this page might be very useul

Time to Act – Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict

From 10th to 13th June 2014 in London (UK), government representatives from 120 countries together with over 1,000 experts, faith leaders, youth organisations and representatives of civil society, military and jurisdiction came together aiming to create an irreversible momentum against sexual violence in conflict and deliver practical actions that impact those on the ground. This gathering was chaired and hosted by the Right Honorable William Hague, British Foreign Secretary, and Angelina Jolie, UNHCR Special Envoy. The IFMSA considers the prevention of sexual violence in both conflict and peace, through education and empowerment of both women and men, to be of crucial importance.

2014.06 Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in conflict, IFMSA delegation

[The IFMSA Delegation in the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict]

Strengthening investigation, documentation and prosecution

Currently many legal systems, especially those in geopolitically-insecure areas, face a grave lack of avenues for the investigation, documentation and prosecution of gender based violence (GBV), particularly rape. For this reason involvement of the international community is of great importance. The available expertise and trained professionals can assist in those countries where technical assistance in investigation and documentation is mostly needed. Furthermore, training medical professionals, law enforcement and policemen to adequately collect evidence and document this in ways understandable to all professions greatly increases the chances of successful prosecution of the perpetrator. Especially, the physicians are crucial in in the evidence collecting process and consulted first by survivors of sexual violence. This double role of examining the patient to collect and document evidence, as well as providing psychosocial support throughout the entire process results to often in conflict of interest, which hamstrings the prosecution process . Next to support on the ground, the implementation of national laws should be stimulated, in order to support the local prosecutors.

Therefore, the international community was called upon to support the active participation of women in legal systems especially as prosecutors, judges and lawyers and, moreover, to assist developing countries in tapping into the wealth and expertise on the international level.  This may be helpful to mobilize professionals from across the globe, that are ready to rapidly deploy the areas where technical assistance in investigation and documentation in conflict is greatly needed. Utilising this expertise will in turn produce a good outlet and strengthen the prosecutor’s abilities to bring successful cases against perpetrators. National law framework should be actively promoted.  When national laws fail to prosecute adequately, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has the privilege and also obligation to intervene. In accordance to the ICC Rome Statue of 1998 this can be done, because GBV can be (and was) categorised as torture and, thereby, as crime against humanity and/or war crime. Truth and reconciliation commissions can be also a powerful tool for this.


“The key is eliminating impunity and having consequences up and down the chain”

John F. Kerry, US Secretary of State

The difficulties we are facing now in conflict areas regarding recognition of rape as a crime and prosecution of the perpetrators is something we have also seen in the western world. Both the paternalistic image of women dominated by men and the association of shame & victim-guilt has hamstringed the development of legal frameworks around the world. To cease GBV sustainably we have to shift the guilt from the victim to the perpetrator by establishing the right legal framework. Stronger accountability to perpetrators will end the impunity and send the message that perpetrators will be brought to justice. It will restore the dignity of survivors and lay the foundation, on which safe communities can be rebuild in the aftermath of a conflict. An “up-and-down”-approach should be applied, which ensures that for example an army general tolerating his men raping women, will brought to justice too (as is normal for any other war crime). Thereby, the essential outcome of any accountability reform should be non-recurrence. Furthermore, reparations to victims were discussed as a mean to simplify recovery. Therefore, some countries assured extra funds for the ICC Victims Trust fund.

Post2015-Development Agenda

One in three girls worldwide is affected by Gender Based Violence. It is no matter of inadequate dressing or the behavior of women, as studies proof. It is a barbarous crime against humanity often instrumentalized to misuse a vacuum of power and held people away from revolutions. Therefore, it is in any way a major obstacle against full empowerment of women and their full participation in society. Knowing this and our shared responsibility for global human rights, the delegation of Sweden and USA have pushed forward to establish GBV as one, separate development goal in the the post2015-Agenda, demanding full empowerment of women and the rapid stop of impunity on all levels by creating a binding international legal framework.  Also the youth should be heard in this process as they have mayor and direct influence on the reduction of GBV in communities.  The UK administration lead by good example and launched a National Action Plan on Women, Peace & Security. This joint venture of the Secretaries of Defense, International Development, and Foreign Affairs outlines clear action and legal requirements to achieve the abolishment of GBV sustainably.

John Kerry’s speech

“No team can succeed leaving half the team on the bench”

J. F. Kerry, US Secretary of State

The question “Why now?” was often raised understandably enough. One of the big achievements, that earmarks the 21st century so far, is the full empowerment of women in all areas. As shown above, any kind of violence against women undermines these efforts substantially. We do achieved to eradicate Anti-Personnel Mines as legitimate mean of war. So why not write Sexual Violence out of the lexicon of war. It´s just #TimeToAct.

“Do not go silent. Raise your voices. Use your influence

to inspire the next generation of men to honor women.”

Angelina Jolie, UNHCR Special Envoy

IFMSA and Sexual Violence in Conflict

As an outcome of the attendance in this summit IFMSA members from different NMOs have mobilized and joined hands and dedication to assure that IFMSA enhance its involvement in addressing this issue, both through internal capacity building as well as external advocacy. If you as member with any of the IFMSA NMOs wish to participate and take an active role in this working group please contact Liaison Officer of Human Right and Peace for further instructions,

For further information / Related Documents:

IFMSA Delegation: Zartash Javaid, Kimberley Bennemeer, Fabian Falkenbach, Moa M Herrgård