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).


What is beyond Global Health-Beyond 2015 Stockholm?

ImageGlobal Health Beyond-2015, hosted by the Swedish Society of Medicine, was a revitalizing meeting–taking the meaning of an engaging conference to another level. It was an epic event for Europe to gather the worlds “star” leaders in global health—bringing together the notorious Lancet editor—Richard Horton to the professor that has enchanted lecture halls of hundreds with his statistical analysis—Hans Rosling to the famous NCD couple—the Beagleholes and civil society champion—dear Lola Dare.



ImageWe were also graced with honorary members including Anders Nordstrom, whose commitment to global health spans decades of development, aid, and policy work and Sweden’s own guardian for a healthy planet–Lena Ek, Minister for the Environment.  There were other unforgettable speakers—René Loewenson of TARSC, Zimbabwe, Mariam Claeson of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Johan Rockstrom of the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

The list continuImagees with names and while all dazzling—they conveyed a greater message to the Stockholm community—that Global Health is everyone’s agenda, it is about healthy lives, healthy planet and that we can achieve this as part of our Post-2015 vision.

ImageHowever, it was the numerous tweeters of Stockholm, Sweden and great global community though showing great admiration for these key messages, evoked an even more critical concern.  Through the use of social media, the twitter chats and debates, there was space and recognition that fundamental questions regarding the principles, priorities, barrier, processes of a global health agenda beyond 2015 still remain unresolved.   Over the course of the conference and the subsequent workshop, these voices, especially the voice of the audience, was gathered and integrated into the Stockholm Declaration on Global Health.

Having had the chance to have an input and reaction, as the younger generation, during the conference and the workshop, representing the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations—I am reflecting upon the messages I conveyed:


Post-2015 agenda should be:

  • Universal, in other words, relevant to every society,
  • Measurable and engage innovative ways to measure, including mobilizing all, resources, such as young people,
  • Multi-sectorial, specifically, breaking the silos,
  • Sustainable,
  • Rights based, realizing that all people regardless of their socioeconomic-political situation have rights to achieving their maximum potential, 
  • and Equitable, focusing on reducing inequities and inequalities.

Medical Education should respond to the changing landscape of health:

  • Training is compartmentalized and fragmented, with the greatest push being specialization, while health systems are being crippled by such an approach;
  • Education lacks a holistic approach and societal approaches to health and well being such as global health, public health, and the development agenda are not part of any core medical curricula;
  • Preparation fails to create competencies for inter-professional and multi-disciplinary collaboration;
  • Incentives continue to encourage bench-science/hard science as the measure of success;
  • Political will and push is for others, not health professionals, per the popular dogma in the community.


What are some global priorities?

  • Corporate responsibility, accountability, transparency a discussion that rarely happens. Gerard Hastings, asked a question, Why corporate power is a public health priority? Economists and policy makers are not shy when saying and commanding how people should live their lives and how societies should work. Health professionals on the other hand are being left behind when sitting on a table to impose a why on societal organization and development policies that lead to a healthy community.
  • Mental Health and Disability key contributors to global burden of diseases.
  • Adolescent health and ageing populations, the largest growing group in many populations.
  • Gender equality, beyond sexual reproductive health and rights, and seeing women as more than breeders, but as equal members of society.
  • Environment and sustainable development (addressing climate change) as an essential aspect of achieving a future of healthy lives, and a healthy planet.

Young people are a vehicle for social change. They are more than advocates, but innovators. Closing the inter-generational gap begins with meaningful engagement and greater collaboration among young people and our leaders.


The question remains, now it has been two months since the conference, I find myself still asking what is beyond Global Health-Beyond 2015?

There have been several events from the large scales conferences of Women Deliver 2013; to the mid-size Sustainable Development Goals-Open Working Groups, post-2015 development agenda consultations and the decision-making gatherings the 66th World Health Assembly and the High Level Panel meetings.  There have been countless civil society gatherings. There also has been a great deal happening at the local level—from on the groundwork to national agenda setting—but again the question a remains, what is next?

Through the messages conveyed in multiple settings, there is a convergence on a common denominator in the health community for beyond 2015—universal health coverage and access, health systems strengthening, and maximizing health at all stages of life—while keeping in mind principles of universality, human rights, equity, gender equality, accountability and sustainability.

However, the question of what is beyond Global-Health Beyond 2015 remains? Only clear response, we as, medical students, have to be advocates for encouraging greater dialogue and commitments on global health.


The Stockholm Declaration for Global Health

Swedish Medical Society


Photos: Courtesy of Svenska Läkaresällskapet.

1 Byass P. Is global health really global? Glob Health Action 2013; 6: 20671.
2 Horton R. Offline: The Stockholm Syndrome. Lancet 2013; 381: 1260
3 Byass P, Friberg P, Blomstedt Y, Wall S. Beyond 2015: time to reposition
Scandinavia in global health? Glob Health Action 2013; 6: 20903.

www.thelancet.com Vol 381 June 15, 2013

4. Hasting G. Why corporate power is a public health priority. BMJ 2012;345:e5124 doi:10.1136/bmj.e5124

Written by: Roopa Dhatt

Medical Students on Human Rights Violations and Violence Against Healthcare Professionals and Students in Turkey

(updated version)


The International Federation of Medical Students’ Association (IFMSA), representing more than a million medical students worldwide condemns the recent acts of violence and human rights violations that have been taking place in Turkey in the last days. The IFMSA calls for the cessation of all kinds of such acts and an end to the violence there to allow for healthcare workers to do their work there. As a general recognition among state and non­-state actors,–physicians and medical students responsibility is to treat every person without discrimination. The targeted acts against health workers not only challenge humanity, but destroy the very fabric of society that creates compassion and care for others. As healers, ­­physicians take an oath to place the health and well­-being of people foremost and do no harm. We remind those that are perpetuating this violence to keep in mind these principles and call for peace.

Main text

In the past days, we have been notified, in addition to media coverage, by several of our constituents from TurkMSIC­­Turkey, our Turkish medical students, and young physicians, sharing their first hand experience on violence in Turkey. Their stories are extremely troubling and reveal that unacceptable acts of unjustified violence and human rights violations are taking place. Moreover, there are also deplorable acts of violence directed towards physicians, health workers and medical students that are providing aid to injured people.

Such acts not only challenge humanity, but destroy the very fabric of society that creates compassion and care for others. As healers­­, physicians, health workers, and medical students commit to place the health and well-­being of people foremost and do no harm.

As a network that reaches more than a million medical students and founded upon principles of understanding, tolerance and peace, IFMSA can not passively ignore this situation. We call upon the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which exists to protect every person’s basic rights, including those of health workers­­ a declaration that all member states of the United Nations are obligated to adhere by [1] Moreover, we also call upon the Geneva Conventions which provides basic protection for health workers in times of armed conflict [2], thus this protection of health workers cannot be disregarded. If such targeted attacks continue, we fear that less aid will be provided to all people. This will only escalate hostility, conflict and the severity of the injuries and consequences of violent acts will be greater for the people of Turkey. We ask those that are attributing to this situation in Turkey to reflect upon the greater impact and the long­-term effects of continued human rights violations.

Moreover, for those physicians, health workers, and medical students that are taking risks to provide care to the injured and in need, IFMSA would also like to state our admiration and support.

IFMSA, as a body of future physicians and healthcare leaders, reminds all people and institutions, most importantly governments, should respect the following:

●  Health workers, including physicians and medical students, should be protected from intentional danger and violence;

●  Physicians are not to be arrested, hurt, or even murdered based upon their political beliefs or choice on how to express themselves in a peaceful manner, and;

●  Physicians not be discouraged to treat people differently based on their different political, religious or cultural ideologies and should continue to adhere to the Physician’s Oath, adopted by the World Medical Association in 1948, which states that a physician shall “not permit considerations of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, social standing or any other factor to intervene between [his] duty and [his] patient.” [3];

●  Respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Conventions and other existing treaties and laws that articulate their responsibilities towards the rights and welfare of health workers;

●  Respect the Physician’s Oath adopted by the World Medical Association in 1948;

●  Establish agencies and mechanisms that will protect the rights and welfare of physicians and even medical students, especially those involved in the care of individuals involved in demonstrations;

●  Respect the fundamental human right of freedom of expression by physicians and medical students, even if they are in opposition or contradiction to the stand of institutions such as the government, and;

●  React appropriately according to the law with regards to proper and lawful procedures in terms of arrest, detainment, trial, and the punishment of physicians to ensure that the law is carried out justly.

●  Call for greater accountability from the perpetrators, whether they are state or non-­state actors;

●  Serve justice to the victims through fair and efficient trial and punishment of perpetrators;

●  Promote the Physician’s Oath which states that health workers are not allowed to
neglect a patient because of differences in political, religious, or cultural ideology, to other sectors, especially the government, military, and police.


The International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) is an independent, non­governmental and non­political federation of medical students from 108 National Member Organizations on six continents and over 100 countries. The IFMSA, as a network of National Member Organizations of future physicians around the world, strongly believes in collaboration and joint efforts aiming to improve the situation of students in medical professions worldwide and to ensure the increase of well­trained and appropriately deployed health workforce.

The IFMSA was founded in 1951 and is run for and by medical students on a non­profit basis. It is officially recognized as a Non Governmental Organization within the United Nations system, and is recognized by the World Health Organization as the International Forum for medical students. It exists to serve medical students all over the world. IFMSA is built around six standing Committees: Human Rights and Peace, Reproductive Health including AIDS, Public Health, Professional Exchange, Research Exchange and Medical Education.