Strengthening Health Workforce Education and Training in the South-East Asia Region

IFMSA declares the importance of the quality of health workforce education and training during the 67th session of the World Health Organization Regional Committee of South-East Asia. The meeting was held in Dhaka, Bangladesh from 9th-12th September 2014.


[The IFMSA Delegation in the 67th session of the Regional Committee of South-East Asia]

A draft “Regional Strategy on Strengthening Health Workforce Education and Training in the South-East Asia Region” was developed by WHO Regional Office, addressing the urgent need to improve the quantity and quality of health workforce in the region. However, IFMSA realized this effort was mainly focused on quantitative enhancement of health professionals, whilst there is also a need to address the quality of the training and education of the health workforce in the region. In this context, IFMSA stated to the WHO and the regional governments that the quality of the education and training should also be considered as an essential component to improve our health system. Furthermore, the statement indicated that the medical students should be considered as partners in developing such strategies to improve the health workforce education and training. This intervention was based on IFMSA’s Policy Statement “Improving the Quality of Residency” adopted in March Meeting 2014 in Tunisia. The Intervention is as followed:

Honourable ministers and distinguished delegates to the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia, we thank you and express gratitude for the opportunity to speak on behalf of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA), based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

IFMSA represents more than a million medical students from 117 countries. One of the main guiding principles of IFMSA is to uphold the highest ethical and professional values of the medical profession. On behalf of our federation we are privileged to express our sincere appreciation for the untiring efforts of WHO and Member States to strengthen health workforce education and training.

It is indeed true that the health workforce contributes significantly to the functioning of health systems which enables equitable access to health care and good health outcomes. We believe that the quality of training and education ultimately helps determine the competence of the health workforce. This health workforce, being one of the main components of the health system, will ultimately help define the quality of the health system. It is important to not only strengthen the health workforce but also to focus on the quality of the training and education to ensure the best possible health outcomes.

In this context we wish to reiterate the importance of maintaining conducive training conditions as a vital component of health workforce education, since it is directly correlated to both quality of training as well as patient safety. The effective enforcement of regulations will help provide more positive outcomes in the longer run.

We, the IFMSA, therefore reiterate that all Member States continue to maintain adequate and high standards for health workforce training and education that will be commensurate with the goals and objectives of such training in terms of quality and efficacy, and that such standards be constantly monitored and evaluated.

We of the IFMSA urge that all medical students undergoing health education and training are considered partners in improving the health of the people of the world.

We take this opportunity to reiterate our support to uphold the commitments of WHO to make this world a healthier place. Thank you 

Wonyun Lee, SCOPH Regional Assistant for Asia-Pacific

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