Taking Steps Forward: Adopting a vision and mission

One may ask: why is that so important for IFMSA? The answer is quite simple. A clear vision gives us the strength to move forward, a mission pushes us to thrive in the international community. 

Over the past years, IFMSA has expended its priorities to include societal issues, such as climate change, universal health care, noncommunicable diseases, social determinants of health and many more to address those current issues that challenge achieving quality, accessible health for all. As our federation has been continuously evolving and growing since more than 62 years, its members felt it was time to take an internal review of the values, principles and objectives of the federation.

The story of IFMSA’s Vision Building began in the term 2011-12, when IFMSA’s leadership began exploring key questions about the direction that IFMSA should be striving for and as well how should IFMSA strive to achieve.  A small working group led by Roopa Dhatt, IFMSA VPE 2012/13 on Mission and Vision sparked momentum for the Federation to officially commit to this process.  (Past Blog– Moving Ahead IFMSA, What our members are saying?)

IFMSA members Vision Building

Through guidance, creativity and great dedication,  Claudel P-Desrosiers (IFMSA-Québec) led the IFMSA Task Force on Vision and Mission. They had a great challenge–to deliever a a new mission and vision for IFMSA by August Meeting 2013, while ensuring that all voices were included in its creation. “The journey wasn’t easy. The process had started in 2007 but no conclusion was reached until recently. It’s not simple to give a Federation something that truly represents the spirit, values and ideals of its 1.3 million members coming from 110 different countries. But with your help, your valuable input and your trust, we were able to make it a success. And I would like to sincerely thank you for that. We are extremely proud that this mission and vision reflect the voices of medical students worldwide, your voice.” -Claudel P-Desrosiers (IFMSA-Québec)

Mission and Vision Survey 2012/13

A world in which all medical students unite for global health and are equipped with the knowledge, skills and values to take on health leadership roles locally and globally.

IFMSA unites medical students worldwide to lead initiatives that impact positively the communities we serve. IFMSA represents the opinions and ideas of future health professionals in the field of global health, and works in collaboration with external partners. IFMSA builds capacity through training, project and exchange opportunities, while embracing cultural diversity so as to shape a sustainable and healthy future.

As we work to make this Federation reflect who we are and what we want to achieve, this newly adopted mission and vision statement provide us with a foundation to expand our impact and to shape the healthy world as we envision it.

August 5th was a memorable night in which the plenary has seized the opportunity to make IFMSA history and to do as the head of PAHO, Dr. Carissa Etienne, told us to do just a few days before: “it cannot be business as usual”.

We are very excited about our mission and vision, as the process of strengthening IFMSA has just been realized, the new few months and years will be very exciting for the Federation!

A special thanks to the the Task Force and those that contribute to the process.

Claudel P-Desrosiers (IFMSA-Québec), joint author of this post
Coordinator of the 2012-2013 Task Force on IFMSA Mission & Vision

Members of the Task Force: James Lawler (AMSA-Australia), Elizabeth Wiley (AMSA-USA), Khalid Almak (medsin-Sudan), Kimberly Williams (CFMS-Canada), Jason van Genderen (IFMSA-NL), Jelte Kelchtermans (BeMSA-belgium),  Thomas Adongo (MSAKE-Kenya), and Roopa Dhatt (IFMSA President).

Moving Ahead IFMSA, What our members are saying?

Building Blocks of IFMSA—Vision and Mission

As IFMSA takes on greater societal challenges in the second decade of the 21st Century, IFMSA, a federation of more than sixty years is taking on an internal review of values, principles and objectives.

IFMSA is aiming to create a new vision and a review of the mission statement.  Over the past years, IFMSA has expanded its priorities to include societal issues such as climate change, universal health care, social determinants of health, global health education, health systems, discrimination, non-communicable diseases, mental health and many more to address those issues that challenge achieving quality, accessible health for all.

IFMSA remains as committed to its standing committees and Initiatives:

  • Public Health
  • Sexual and Reproductive Health, including HIV/AIDS
  • Medical Education
  • Human Rights and Peace
  • Professional and Research Exchanges
  • ThinkGlobal
  • Global Health Equity

The words and thoughts that inspire our members….

(These are the direct thoughts of IFMSA members from the year 2011/12…with many more thoughts to come in the year 2012/13).

IFMSA experience provided through IFMSA:

Fun/exciting/Interesting/enjoyment; Educational/Knowledge/Learning/informative; Training/ Experience/ skills; Challenging; Inspiring; Life changing; Motivating/motivation; Opportunity; Fantastic; Empowerment/Enabling; Energetic/ Enthusiastic; Friends/family/belonging/team/cooperative; Unity/unifying; Collaboration/ cooperation; Progressive/progress; Broaden thinking/open minded; Leadership

The organizational behavior/direction/activities/values:

Development oriented/development/professional development; Social/meeting/sharing/ to all; Projects; Integrity; Networking/partnerships/connections; Visionary/vision/ dream; Friends/family/belonging/team/ cooperative; Interactive/active; Exchange; Ambitious; Diversity/ accept difference; Collaboration/ cooperation; Unity/unifying; Medicine/health (public health)/Doctors/future of health care; Broaden thinking/open minded; Peace; Professional/practical; Making difference/impact/change/global impact; Community focused; Advocacy/intervene/influence; Initiative Responsibility 

Organizational structure:

International/universal/global/worldwide; Collaboration/ cooperation;  Biggest students run NGO in the world/leading students organization

Things to improve in IFMSA for the next 10 years:

Health for all

Good communications between Local Committees

More Research

More Legal Recognition

New S.C on new technologies

Leadership Globally

Social Recognition

More career guidance and counseling

General Secretariat Office

More collaboration between Medical Students and other healthcare professions

Seeing IFMSA SCs goals coming to reality locally in the KCs

IFMSA African Bilateral Exchanges

100% participation of African NMOs 

More African Officials

More African Meetings (GAs, SRTs, RMs)

100% representation

Integrated Policy Making

Second Languages

Medical Educations quality world wide

Bigger Organization

IFMSA Alumni in governments

Direct impact on the community

More researches

More projects

Big Topics to focus on the next 10 years:

Maternal and infant mortality

The right to health

Cancer awareness

Malaria Eradication

Health insurance scheme

Ways to reduce HIV

Reduction of communicable diseases in Africa

Female Genital Mutilation

Effect of corruption on the health sector in Africa

Water supply

Solar energy

Attitude of health workers in health care delivery

Point to consider:


Political will

Culture and traditional ethics


Strategic Cooperation

On Local level: (how we want it after 10 years)

More support for local efforts focused on transnational projects

Common goal for local efforts, doesn’t need same structure

Connected to local communities

Every member should understand what IFMSA is.

Identify and partner with other local organizations + fundraising opportunities 

Translate IFMSA objective into a local context

Seek exposure via local media

Bringing organizational decisions down to local chapters, specially policy statements

National level: (how we want it after 10 years)

Representation in every nation with medical schools

Official recognition of all exchanges for school credit

Reaching more (or better 100%) students in Medical schools in each country

More tangible projects with public health influence (significant impact on society)

International: (how we want it after 10 years)

Global health Education framework for all students

Total representation (100% countries and schools worldwide)

Leader of change in global issues: SDH, Pharma, Tobacco, Climate change, Human Rights

IFMSA Office (Head Quarters)

International platform for collaboration

Be the voice of all Medical Students worldwide

Our values and principles

IFMSA was created to impact the world and to empower its members in taking their vision and ideas, and making them a reality. IFMSA has inspired generations of medical students to develop the leadership abilities and skills to take on challenges and to improve the world around them in a crucial period of their career. Engaging in IFMSA encourages both professional and personal collaborations irrespective of geographical, social, cultural, religious, racial, sexual and political differences. As a result, future doctors are becoming more culturally aware and sensitive physicians.

Principles (The IFMSA Constitution)

3.1  The federation pursues its aims without political, religious, social, racial, national, sexual or any other discrimination

3.2  The federation promotes humanitarian ideals among medical students and so seeks to contribute to the creation of responsible future physicians

3.3  The federation respects the autonomy of its members.

Objectives (The IFMSA Constitution)

4.1 The goal of the federation is to serve society and medical students all over the world through its member organizations by:

a)    Empowering medical students in using their knowledge and capacities for the benefit of society.

b)    Providing a forum for medical students throughout the world to discuss topics related to individual and community health, education and science and to formulate policies from such discussions.

c)    Promoting and facilitating professional and scientific exchanges as well as projects and extracurricular training for medical students, thereby sensitising them to other cultures and societies and their health problems.

d)    Providing a link between members, medical students’ associations and international organizations, and to encourage the cooperation between them for the ultimate benefit of society.

Mission Statement (IFMSA Bylaws):

The mission of IFMSA is to offer future physicians a comprehensive introduction to global health issues. Through our programs and opportunities, we develop culturally sensitive students of medicine, intent on influencing the transnational inequalities that shape the health of our planet.


  • To expose all medical students to humanitarian and health issues, providing them with the opportunity to education themselves and their peers;
  • To facilitate partnerships between the physician in training community and international organization working on health, education and social issues;
  • To give all medical students the opportunity to take part in clinical and research exchange around the world;
  • To provide a network that links active medical students across the globe, including student leaders, project managers and activists, so that they can learn from and be motivated by each other;
  • To provide an international framework in which medical student projects can be realized;
  • To empower and train medical students to become advocates in leading social change.

Our structure

IFMSA is a federation that is run by student volunteers and aims to promote collaboration across borders. The Executive Board governs the organization, the liaison offers build external relations, and the standing committees, initiatives, support divisions and regions lead the programming of the organization. The national member organizations (NMOs) are the official decision making body, where members from each national member organization meet bi-annually to vote on IFMSA’s policies and elect the team of officials.

Our Membership

Our values in IFMSA align with reaching out to members around the globe and increasing opportunities for exchange, capacity building and fostering relations beyond borders.


While one of the world’s oldest and largest independent organization representing associations of medical students internationally, IFMSA’s family continues to grow—with more representation from underrepresented regions. IFMSA’s family over the years has grown.

At the 61st General Assembly, August Meeting 2012, we reached an astounding 114 NMOs in 107 countries. We also have 14 African countries being represented in IFMSA after this General Assembly. We welcomed IFMSA-SKN, Saint Kitts and Nevis, OMA-Albania, ODEM-Dominican Republic, SLMSA-Sri Lanka, SLEMSA-Sierra Leone, ZAMSA-Zambia, and IFMSA-Morocco at our past General Assembly.

Our General Assemblies and Regional Meetings

IFMSA General Assemblies take us around the globe and strive to explore topics in medicine that are important to the global health community and the future of health professionals.  In the past years, IFMSA has taken on several themes at the General Assemblies:

  • Universal Health Care (AM2012—Mumbai, India)
  • Youth and Social Determinants of Health (MM2012–Accra, Ghana)
  • Health and the Future (AM2011—Copenhagen, Denmark)
  • Health Equality and Disparity among the MDGs (MM2011—Jakarta, Indonesia)
  • Health and the City (AM2010—Montreal, Canada)
  • Complementary and Alternative Medicine (MM2010—Bangkok Thailand)
  • Investing in Health of Children and Youth (AM2009—Ohrid, Macedonia)
  • Conflicts and Health (MM2009—Hammamet, Tunisa) and many more.

Through our General Assembly themes our members get an opportunity to learn from experts and locals alike about social and health issues. The national hosting organization work with IFMSA to create theme events that not only address international hot topics, but also personalize it with having as much as possible locally, based panelists from the host-country.

Our Outreach

IFMSA works both globally and locally. While our roots have always been think globally and work locally, in the past years, we have shifted away from that to reaching and working at levels—internally, regionally, nationally and locally.

Our members are active through their National Member Organizations (NMOs) at the local level—working on projects, going into the community and directly improving their communities through education, public health outreach and increasing awareness on key health topics ranging from Breast Cancer Awareness to Environmental Issues to Road Safety.

At the regional and international level, our members are building the international medical student platform on social and health issues. We advocate for patients, focus on access to essential medicines, support reforms to address climate change, participate in the sustainable development consultation process, raise attention to social determinants of health, shed light to youth issues, especially on reproductive health and sexual rights, but most importantly, we approach the training of becoming a doctor with a broader perspective.

The meetings we have attended over the year include high-level meetings to NGO sessions to student networks. Some of the meetings this year include:

  • International UN related:
    • WHOs EB Meetings, Regional Meetings, WHAs
    • UNCSD
    • UNDP Summit
    • UNESCO
    • World Conference on Social Determinants of Health (WHO)
    • COP 17, UNFCC and Bonn Meeting, UNFCC
    • UNAIDS
    • UNHCR
    • Rio+20, Sustainable Development
  • Student Networks
    • IFISO
    • World Health Student Symposium
  • Professional Groups
    • World Federation of Neurology
    • World Medical Association (WMA)
  • Special Interests
    • World Health Summit
    • International AIDS Conference

IFMSA has done a great deal over the years through the collaborative efforts of its National Member Organizations and inspired, motivated members around the world.  However, there are still many more challenges for IFMSA to continue to strive to reach.

-Written by: Roopa Dhatt, IFMSA VPE 2011/12 and President 2012/13