Dear IFMSA family and friends, especially to our honorary guests, welcome to the 62nd General Assembly August Meeting of IFMSA!
The weather here in Santiago may be chilly, but the hall is full of fiery energy and vitality. Partly it’s because of the fiesta spirit that thrives in the Latin America, but certainly the heat is coming from the burning passion of each and every IFMSA member in this hall who wants to make a difference in IFMSA and in the world.
This General Assembly is extra special. For decades, IFMSA has been making a difference in the world, at the forefront of cultural exchange, building friendships, and health action. Our previous General Assemblies have served as platforms for healthy discourse about the world and the challenges it faces. Last GA, we were learned how to become advocates for social change to improve health. Certainly this GA will provide more venues for capacity building and project brainstorming.
However, this General Assembly will be a defining one in IFMSA history, as we devote an entire General Assembly to discuss our Federation’s internal future. We have spent years pointing out the problems, needs, and gaps within our Federation, and several teams of IFMSA leaders have attempted to effect incremental improvements. Indeed, reforming the IFMSA, just like any other international organization, takes time and understanding, but importantly a collaboratively effort by all.
It was not too long along that I experienced something similar in my country. The US was experiencing a whirlwind of emotions during the 2008 elections. The country was facing a time of uncertainty, great challenges and exploring unchartered territory–but more than anything the spirit of the country was that we were hopeful, we were hopeful that change would bring our nation to a better place. We were hopeful and we took a leap for a new America by electing President Obama. [Audience responds–Yes, we can]. (Shared personal story about the night of elections—the energy in the room, in the country, as we all watched for the results.)
While we have already overcome the birthing pains of the reform process, now we have to work towards its full realization and ensure that a renewed IFMSA is born. This is the responsibility that we have assigned ourselves, and this is a responsibility that our generation will not shy away from.
As we move forward, we should approach this process with courage, understanding and an open mind. Think outside the box.
Challenge ourselves to imagine the IFMSA we want without any limitations and constraints.
We should use this opportunity to create together the IFMSA we want.
I strongly believe that, through respectful dialogue and with serious commitment, we can make a great leap forward in this IFMSA reform journey. While we may not be able to fully finish the whole reform process up to its smallest details – again, reform is a learning experience – we are certainly expected to lay down strong foundations and fix critical control knobs that will ease the path towards full reform in the next few years to come. This will already be an enormous achievement and an invaluable contribution to the next IFMSA generations.
Meanwhile, although we are just about to start, I cannot help but already thank everyone who made this GA a possibility.
In behalf of the Federation, I wish to convey special thanks to you, Dr. Etienne, for gracing our General Assembly. Your presence is indeed a testament of WHO’s commitment to meaningful engagement with young people and future health professionals towards achieving health for all.
Even before the GA begins, the discussions have already begun. The lead up to this GA has already been encouraging. IFMSA members are motivated and inspired. Let’s continue the momentum that has been built, and I encourage each and every IFMSA member present here in Santiago to embark on this five-day journey with the rest of us. Don’t leave Chile without leaving an imprint on IFMSA’s future.
Together, let us make this General Assembly a huge success and a historic moment for our Federation.
Together, let us ensure that the Federation that emerges from this reform process is, borrowing the post-2015 agenda’s catchphrase, the IFMSA we want.
Together, let us be the generation that, with dynamism and optimism, with unity amidst diversity, will create a better future for the world’s medical students to reach our communities for better health.
IFMSA President 2012/13