Think Global at March Meeting 2014

Think Global is proud to landscape our achievements from the IFMSA March Meeting 2014, “post 2015, Get Involved!”. We at Think Global with the support of many of the Think Global passionate team certainly did get involved!

Firstly, Think Global is here to stay thanks to your support! The Initiative has been successfully and unanimously re-endorsed for another two years by the plenary. And on the note of elections, Think Global co-coordinator Claudel was elected to next year’s Executive Board as Vice-president for External Affairs.

Back to business; how does one go about creating the next generation of global health leaders? Think Global took every approach we could think of to ensure we were doing just that throughout MM14. Starting with the preGA Think Global was represented in four preGAs spanning global health leadership through to training trainers in advocacy. New Generation of Global Health Leaders participants acted as civil society advocates in the GlobalWHO final day honing their advocacy skills to fight for the advances in global health they feel so passionately about: climate change, health economy, mental health, non communicable diseases and universal health coverage. Cautious not to miss an opportunity, Claudel also ran a session on global health and sustainable development in the exchanges preGA workshop whilst Anya support the advocacy preGA from afar!

Think Global’s name was beginning to seep into the consciousness of those global health minded individuals. Yet more was to come from the team of passionate young global health lovers. The theme of March Meeting 2014 was the post Millenium Development Goals, post 2015 development agenda, suiting Think Global members down to the ground. The topic was introduced through excellent talks from inspiring externals each introducing varying aspects of the post-2015 clearly leading us through what has been a confused and overlapping process. Three subsequent parallel events aimed to educate participants on specific issues within the post2015 agenda. Think Global Coordinators Anya and Claudel facilitated sessions on Health Policies and Sustainable wellbeing respectively, where small group discussions led to excellent debate and intriguing questions to be answered. The need for a health revolution emerged…yet time was insufficient for this to be planned in detail!

Finally the theme event was rounded off with a stimulating interactive session. After being caught up on all the other sessions, a debate on the health aspect of the post-2015 agenda was staged between Mike Kalmus Eliasz (former Think Global coordinator) arguing for Healthy Life Expectancy and Waraguru Wanjau (the IFMSA Liaison Officer to the WHO) arguing for Universal Health Coverage. With IFMSA President implementing his SCORA upbringing and getting the whole room got involved, enraged and subsequently contributed to the creation of the Hammamet Resolution. A truly collaborative document clearly articulating the global views of medical students regarding the future development agenda.

Think Global representatives at the meeting didn’t stop there, there was more work to be done! During the joint Standing Committee sessions we twice ran a session on “Global Health Education – what, why and how?” In total around 60 participants explored the concept of global health and how to tackle their universities to include more of it in the curricula. This showcases the IFMSA at it’s best, where we can all share our experiences to develop the achievements of others and will be carried forward for the next couple of months in order to develop an international guiding document. In addition, you may have already heard that the IFMSA is working to develop a standardised Global Health Advocacy Training; a three day workshop which can be implemented worldwide empowering youth to make change, work is continuing and all will soon be revealed.

We also collaborated on IFMSA policy statements which were successfully adopted, including one on trade and health and one the future development goals. Plus, we have helped increasing the knowledge and interest regarding the Trans-pacific and Trans-atlantic trade agreements. We were also able to meeting with many members of the Team of Officials, specifically including the standing committee directors with whom we met and pledged to improve our communication to facilitate united activities for an even better IFMSA.

Finally, for us as Think Global coordinators meeting some of our inspirational team members face-to-face was a highlight of the conference. There is no amount of words that can thank you all for the hard work you do around the world.

If you are interested in getting involved with us for the rest of the term, please fill out this form. We are very much looking forward your bright ideas and meaningful input!

On behalf of the International Think Global Team,

Claudel & Anya
thinkglobal@ifmsa.org

1000 insatiable leaders, tackling the world’s biggest challenges, unite in an African capital

By Dr. Alessandro Demaio
Originally published in The Conversation.

If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.

Defining words by Ghandi, this quote acts as a mantra by which I live my life. A reminder everyday of the importance to act, not just talk. To rally and react, not just offer rhetoric, and to embody the best we can be.

Yet few times has this quote been so poignant, as this last week.

In Tunisia to speak at the global conference of the International Federation of Medical Student Associations (IFMSA, the worldwide body that represents doctors-in-training), I was surrounded by young health leaders ‘walking the walk’ towards a better world. Some 1000 young emerging visionaries from all over the planet, who came to a small, seaside town outside of Tunis to discuss humanity’s greatest challenges, connect to form a powerful new cohort of change and develop effective solutions for a healthier tomorrow.Listening in and watching these remarkable young people, I wanted to share some reflections; some observations from the thousand-strong there – for all young people thirsty for change.

Four key lessons from these emerging leaders.

1. They’re inspired, not overwhelmed

Yes, there are some big global challenges ahead and there’s no doubt we’re against the clock. But being paralysed by fear or overwhelmed by the enormous tasks of mitigation is a waste of both time and energy. Cyclical conversations about the gravity of Climate Change or our major health issues will never lead us in the direction we must move and likely lead to less, rather than more action.

Keeping a clear head, and keeping an eye on what we all want – this is essential for achieving the movement we require in the time it must occur.

Something these young leaders seemed to knew all too well.

2. They’re focused on the future, not the past

Reflection is important; and reflecting on the decisions we and our leaders have made to this point in Global Health history is even more important. Taking the time to look back and digest the path we travelled, if only to avoid making the same mistakes and to inform the context of current challenges.

The danger is, that we spend too much time looking back, and not enough of our energy focusing on the future. That we focus only on the past, and lament the poor and sometimes reckless decisions that have lead us down the path of environmental and health peril, instead of looking at the opportunities we still have and the important cards we hold.

With a buzz of optimism in the Tunisian air – these young people had their sights firmly focused on the road ahead.

3. They’re not putting off until tomorrow what they can start today

Something I hear over and over, is the perception that things will be somehow easier or more opportune to tackle tomorrow. That the political, social or cultural context will somehow alter and correcting the course of our ‘Titanic’ will become simpler.

This is not going to happen. In fact, things are only likely to become harder. Looking at these emerging leaders – they were under no such illusions.

4. Simply starting the conversation is a respectable first step

Despite what I say, it’s not always easy to see the ‘end game’. Climate Change, for example, is a massive and complex problem – but like all problems, solutions must start with a simple conversation. The worst thing that can happen, is that issues such as the environment or rising social inequality become taboo topics and conversation-killers. Avoided rather than debated. Starting a conversation, whilst it may seem simple and a long way from an answer, is an essential beginning and a commendable, necessary move.

Never underestimate the power of social dialogue.

A duo of dares for the not so young.

For those with a little more experience on their side and years of wisdom under their belts, maybe the same advice doesn’t apply. But in the context of this inspiring group last week, I would make two pleas.

A duo of dares.

Mentor.

The first one relates to your years of experience. I hear over and over again, when I interview global and local leaders, that a major catalyst in their lives has been strong mentors. People who have taken the time to lend ongoing advice, shown interest and who ‘have their back’. Personally, this has been essential in my short career so far.

So my first urging to those with experience, wisdom and a little grey hair – reach out and mentor leaders in the ranks below.

Rally.

The second call – rally behind young people such as these, who dare to stick their heads above the proverbial trenches. There were a lot of incredible young people there last week in Tunisia, and as someone who regularly gets to meet inspiring emerging leaders – I can say that we have a lot to be optimistic about. But the reality is that much of society’s wealth, power and decision-making rests with you. In 2014, as a new generation of visionaries put up their hands, be ready to throw your support behind them and catalyse some meaningful change.

Signing off from Tunisia.

In short, we all have a crucial role in social change for a healthier future. What was clear last week, is that these young leaders ‘got it’. If we can spread this inspired thirst for change, and engage those in power to take this group seriously, we might just start to see the progress we so desire, on the big issues at hand, on a scale that is necessary.


Dr. Alessandro Demaio
Australian Medical Doctor; Postdoctoral Fellow in Global Health & NCDs at Harvard University
On twitter | NCD Free on Facebook

Advocacy and the physician in training moving forward from March Meeting 2013?

The theme of the IFMSA General Assembly in March 2013, “Advocacy and the Physician in training,” acknowledged that advocacy and medicine are inseparably intertwined. Discussions at international conferences such as the “World Health Summit” and reports by eminent organisations such as the Royal College of Physicians UK have also highlighted the ever evolving awareness of the need for physicians to be equipped with advocacy skills. Yet standard medical school education in no way prepares future physicians for this role.

Physicians as advocates is not a new concept. Historically, physicians were known to be those that advocated on behalf of their patients, their communities and stood up for those without a voice. In a climate where social determinants of health are increasingly considered, the advocating physician is required to engage politically, to debate policy and to battle for funding. Currently, to ensure that you are prepared for this role requires extra-curricular involvement and significant time investment. To teach such skills in medical school isn’t to say that all physicians would go on to use them, but it would be the first step to creating a generation of empowered advocates.

To begin considering how advocacy could be incorporated into medical curricula the recent emergence of global health education onto medical curricula could provide a basis. Linking the teaching of advocacy to global health education may promote a culture of linking problem identification to action. In that sense, incorporating advocacy skills into medical education could provide a new culture of thought in which the skills for tackling issues which arise within medical training are provided.

Physicians in training advocate for access to education in Quebec (2012)
Physicians in training advocate for access to education in Quebec (2012)

Within the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA) and many of its member organisations, advocacy training and global health education workshops are commonplace and ever-growing. Feedback is consistently positive, and an increasing base of evidence demonstrates the success of these workshops in empowering participants. This year, the Think Global initiative within the IFMSA will aim to continue and broaden the provision of global health education and advocacy skills in order to produce a generation of medical students equipped to change the world!

Current projects include the development of a standardised Global Health Advocacy Training which will be piloted locally in Quebec and at a meeting of the IFMSA in Tunisia. The Think Global project is also in the process of collating resources for this training; all contributions would be welcome at thinkglobal@ifmsa.org.

In the near future we hope to develop this training, disseminating plans and empowering more global health advocates worldwide.

Anya Gopfert & Claudel P-Desrosiers
Think Global Coordinators 2013-2014
thinkglobal@ifmsa.org