On March 23rd and 24th, the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME) Executive Committee met in the WHO Regional Office in Cairo. During this meeting, IFMSA was present as well as the members of the 6 Regional Associations of the WFME. Mr. Mohi Eldin Magzoub, the former secretary of the Association for Medical Education in the EMR (AMEEMR), was among those present. He is now working as the Regional Advisor for Health Professions Education at the EMRO office, and happens to have been the first ever IFMSA SCOPH Director, for the term 1982-1983.
We asked Mr. Magzoub a number of questions about his journey through IFMSA and the creation of our standing committee on public health (SCOPH).
How did you first get into IFMSA?
I first went to Switzerland to represent the Sudanese medical students association in a conference. At that time, we only had two medical schools and I was the first one from Al Jazirah University which had recently been established. I went into a surgery clerkship with their permission and received funds from the local government to support my travel. The meeting was in a castle in East Switzerland. At that time many things were happening in the world and things were changing. Bruce Waters became our president, as the first person from Zimbabwe. During that time we were having some very long discussions about apartheid in South Africa, which even made SAMSA to discontinue as it was only composed of caucasian students, and it did not seem appropriate.
How was SCOPH formed out of the previous structure?
The discussion was held within the group that was responsible for the Standing Committee on Population Activity. We felt that the term Population Activity was too vague, and the pressure from the UN that had the UNFPA programme stopped, so we decided to change it to Public Health. We felt that SCOPH was more related to medicine and the term was clearer to students. I took the lead on SCOPH and attended the meeting in Vienna. At that time it was all the executive committee meeting. They had a building for IFMSA, that was not part of the university, but had a secretariat with supporting staff.
What was your major motivation to work in SCOPH and IFMSA?
The most attractive activity to join IFMSA for students was the exchange program, which was very active. We received around 60 students annually in Sudan, and 60 students left the country. SCOPH started in the Village concept program: a village in Al-Jazirah, where each student came to do their exchange, work with the villagers staying there and where they helped the people. We had some funds from the government and NGOs, so the program continued for a long time. One of the students actually did their PhD there on circumcision. When the participants from the exchanges became doctors, they came back to practice in that village. I also remember IFMSA was very well received by WHO at that time.The WHO recognized an annual meeting on Medical Education by Gilbert, who later wrote a book on medical education on community based practice.
How did you do the work that you did for SCOPH? Was there anything in place that worked similar to the International Teams or mailinglists that we use today?
At that time there was no work done online, we only communicated with letters as phones were expensive. You would send a message and after two months you would get a response. It was a big challenge to communicate. In Sudan we didn’t have anything online. There were no discussions between the meetings and I did not have assistants, but there was a Standing Committee group, an international committee that met and discussed mainly during the meetings
What were the biggest issues SCOPH was working on at that time?
We were working to move medical education from teaching hospitals to communities, to try to demonstrate to international students how to go outside the hospital and learn about medicine itself. It was not accepted at that time at all to learn in the community, as teaching was seen as something happened entirely in hospitals. The work that we did gave some real successful stories of schools working in the communities, helping them as well as helping medical students. For the first time ever we moved exchanges from the hospital to primary care, something which I only realized myself after I graduated: that exchanges can also be in primary care.
What was your biggest achievement as SCOPH Director?
The establishment of SCOPH itself was my biggest achievement as a director. We worked more towards creating the guidelines and the terms of references and what could be done. Many of the actual activities in public health came maybe after my term. But it was a very good idea to translate SCOPA into SCOPH for sure.
What did IFMSA bring you?
IFMSA gave me the possibility to take my first plane, and my first journey to Europe. I remember spending a night at the airport because I didn’t even have the money to go to a student house, but I still went to the meeting. IFMSA gets you into partnerships and networking. I started networking in WHO because of it. And I started working with students of course, or promoting exchanges for my country, which were all important additions for me. And it got me international exposure what helped me into my job at WHO now.
What would be your final message to the IFMSA members worldwide?
Students still can play a major role in international medical education in IFMSA as well as within their own communities and countries. IFMSA really has a long history of achievements. As you know being a student is not really a profession, but it’s a transient period. Therefore, it’s a challenge to find out how to continue working in leadership. But students can indeed play a major role.
IFMSA would like to thank Mr. Mohi Eldin Magzoub for his time, and for his continuous work to improve medical education.