Meet the first IFMSA SCOPH Director!


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.

And We Continue: Report from the 2nd Team of Officials Meeting of the term!

Get a quick overview of IFMSA here and read more about Team of Officials Meeting 2 here!

Three months into the term, the Team of Officials met in Zagreb, Croatia, for their 2nd face-to-face meeting of the term. It was the perfect time for the team to review the work done so far, to celebrate the successes and to define what is to improve in the next months. Most of our day-to-day communication and work is done online – either via emails or Skype calls. So it is very refreshing and inspiring to see each others. We always get a boost of motivation to work even more for IFMSA after a TOM!

We have detailed our work in our 2nd Team of Officials Meeting in a document that you can download online: TOM 2 Summary & Outcomes Report. It is for you to understand better what we discuss and do at our Meetings, and to be aware of the latest internal developments of IFMSA!

We are proud that we have been able to follow our Plan of Action for 2014/15 – a plan that was built collectively in TOM1 (see previous blog entry). We have made a few adjustments to it, but generally it is an extremely useful tool for the Team of Officials as it helps us track our work more easily. We have also discussed the transition to IFMSA Programs, as several proposals will be up for adoption in the March Meeting! Furthermore, we talked about the work done in external representation and global advocacy; and we brainstormed on the topic of regionalization – which was one of our pursued goals for the term.

We are excited to see you in the March Meeting 2015 in Antalya, Turkey – a meeting we have started to plan a long time ago. We are committed to give you one of the best experience you will ever have!

We are sending you our best wishes for the year to come,

Your Team of Officials 2014/15


IFMSA at the EPHA Professional Development Program

IMG_4575Hello again!

Between the 8th and the 10th of December Marie, the European General Assistant, and me attended the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) Professional Development Program in Brussels, Belgium. The EPHA is an European non-governmental organization that aims to be a platform in which health-related European NGOs can work together towards the improvement of health in this region and in the world. IFMSA is a member of the EPHA since 2012.

Why this workshop? Well, we wish you could have been there with us!

In the first day we started talking about the EPHA’s Pharma4Health campaign (that IFMSA supported), which aimed to reversion the Juncker’s Team (the European Commission team) decision of moving medicines and biotechnologies responsibility from the Directorate General of Health (DG SANCO) to the Enterprise one, which could have lead to a lack of consciousness and awareness of the importance of these products for the access for health, at the same time the companies working on this area would have a greater lobby power. Thankfully, this campaign was quite successful, with the confirmation that medicines remain under DG SANCO’s responsibility and it seems that biotechnology will remain as well.  Throughout the discussion, we’ve learnt a lot of good practices that will certainly be shared afterwards.

Afterwards, we had a really good presentation from OXFAM, another NGO that fights against inequality in the world, which showed us a bit their “Even it up!” campaign. OXFAM works a lot on providing data that shows the economic negative side of economic extreme inequalities. They also work and access to health and education, since they believe these are the two main social pillars, which without the inequality will remain as a vicious cycle. For that, they fight for the health systems’ fees removal, struggle for access to medicines, lobby against the negative side of TTIP and they inclusively build hospitals in low-income countries.

We began the second day talking about several European media strategies; who to tackle, what they do like, what they dislike, how to reach them; etc. For instance, we learnt that the more impactful media entities in Europe are the European Voice paper, the website and the Financial Times Magazine. We also discussed best practices when writing press releases, which might be very useful in the future. After we had another really good workshop by EPHA, presenting their EU Alcohol Policy strategy. This was presented as a case study to convey very important contents about designing campaign and strategic advocacy planning that goes very in line with the needs of our region and our members. At the end of the day we were presented by the Scottish Health Action on Health Alcohol problems the Scotland Minimum Unit Pricing in Scotland. This was a movement started to implement a minimum price for alcoholic beverages in Scotland, after being shown by evidence that low-income communities we’re abusing on alcohol consumption due to some brands very low prices. After a lot of national struggles, they got this measure approved in Scotland and now they are trying to implement this in the EU and its member states.

At last, in the third day, we discussed a lot was is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), an agreement that is being negotiated between the USA and the EU and that have a broad impact on economy and society and, consequently, on health. Specifically, we talked about the potential negative impact of TTIP on the access to healthcare by the EU citizens,  as well as the relation with the consumers rights since it might affect food and agriculture trade standards. In the afternoon, we took part of a guided tour through the European Parliament, where we could better understand how do the European Political decisions happen.

We hope that this workshop has brought a lot of information and content that hopefully will help us designing even better the European Advocacy Strategy that we are working in.

As usual, keep tuned!

Warm regards,

Alberto Abreu da Silva, Regional Coordinator for Europe 2014-2015