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).


4th open working group on sustainable development goals to kick off in New York on Monday!

It is our pleasure to introduce you the IFMSA delegation to the 4th open working group (OWG) on sustainable development goals (SDGs), to kick off at the United-Nations Headquarters in New York, on June 17th 2013. As we draw closer to the meeting, the IFMSA delegation makes final preparations to make sure our participation is valuable and meaningful as well as a good representation for IFMSA and youth everywhere.

Who we are
We are a bunch of enthusiastic IFMSA members from all over the world, with various backgrounds, ready to advocate for health and youth issues, and to ensure that the voice of medical students worldwide is well-heard by stakeholders.

Why a meeting on sustainable development goals
Last June, Rio de Janeiro welcomed the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20. In the outcome document The Future We Want, The present member states agreed on launching a process to develop a set of sustainable development goals (SDGs), while being pretty vague and only stating that those goals should be “limited in number, aspirational and easy to communicate”. Above all, those goals should balanced the three dimensions of sustainable development: society, environment and economy. On paper, sustainable development is pretty cool: it aims to meet the needs of the present, such as poverty reduction and economic growth, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, for example environmental protection and intergenerational equity (Brundtland, 1987). But it gets a bit more challenging when we try to put policies in place. To learn more on sustainable development, we suggest you to take a look at the UN Division for Sustainable Development (DSD) at : http://www.un.org/esa/dsd/.

So after this huge meeting in Rio where IFMSA sent a delegation, an open working group was mandated by the General Assembly to prepare a proposal on the SDGs that would be sensitive of the UN development agenda beyond 2015. After being officially established on January 22nd 2013, the open working group decided of its own innovative modalities to ensure the full involvement of relevant stakeholders and civil society, including the Major Group of Children and Youth (MGCY), with which IFMSA has collaborated many times in the past. So far, the group has met thrice and will meet for a fourth time between June 17th-19th to focus especially on health and population dynamics, social protection, youth, and education.

Why is this meeting important
The general idea of this meeting is that the contributions made in this forum will play a pivotal role in shaping the SDGs and what goes into them for the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons to review. The SDGs will be what we strive towards, tackling various issues in health, climate change, social protection, education, and youth among many others. We want to make sure that important issues we cherish are not missed within these broad topics. A lot has been brought up of concern with other groups also participating in the MGCY. With UNFPA and UNICEF amongst others sending big and strong delegations, this 4th OWG meeting is likely to be the biggest so far.

What we will do
Our group will be representing IFMSA at this meeting, where we are hoping to contribute on interventions regarding health and youth issues. We have also been working on drafting specific statements on different agenda items. We will be using IFMSA various policy statements including the last we adopted in March 2013 on future development goals. We will advocate for what we know best: universal health care, health in all policies, sexual and reproductive rights, non-communicable diseases including mental health, climate change and health co-benefits of sustainable development. Furthermore, we will also participate in MGCY Mini Youth Blast happening today (June 16th) where we will facilitate sessions, contribute to others, strategize for the meeting ahead, as well as in numerous side-events.

Overall, we hope that we will be able to trigger discussions, both within and outside of IFMSA, to play an active role in work on health beyond 2015 and to help shape the future we want. As Richard Horton from the Lancet recently wrote, we have about 30 months to get this right.

We will be sending regular updates on twitter, using the hashtag #IFMSASDG. And we want you to engage with us! Send us a tweet, comment on our IFMSA blog entries, and most of all make sure you get involved in the discussions on the future we want!

Delegation Meeting in Bryant Park on Saturday June 15th

Until next time,

Claudel P-Desrosiers and Rispah Walumbe
On behalf of the delegation: Mike Kalmus-Eliasz, Anneleen Boel, Neil De La Plante, Gerald Makuka, and Kimberly Golding Williams.

For more on the meeting: http://sustainabledevelopment.un.org

Emerging Voices Perspective at the 8th Global Conference on Health Promotion: Health in all Policies–Helsinki, Finland


Our vision for Health Promotion is ensuring that Health in all Policies (HiAP) is the way forward.

We want to take part in creating a world that collaborates across sectors to achieve the health and well being of all people.

I would like to begin by saying that, yes, that’s me–I am one of the flooders of the message board, but I promise to keep off twitter during this session.

Really thank-you to the organizers, Finland and the WHO for creating this space, as many of us felt engaged throughout this meeting because we were able to share our ideas and even have dialogue with the mother of health promotion.

I was invited here to represent my organization—the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations, which collectively represents more than 1.3 million future healthcare professionals on all continents in over 100 countries.

I am therefore standing here today as voice of the youth, the voice of those who will one day be in your shoes, the voice of those who want to be a part of the decisions that are made today, in order to make this world more sustainable.

Before moving forward, I would like to briefly reflect

What truly resonated with us, the young voices, is that we should not be afraid of making mistakes and that our focus should be on learning, being creative and innovative as we strive for Health in all Policies, especially as we build bridges and collaborate with other sectors—the process will be challenging, requiring great commitment, as well as partnerships to address the obstacles of an uncharted territory, where social determinants of health, corporate interests and subversive politics, are the greatest offenders of health and well-being. 

We have to be bold, but bold together, with all the tools, including the bag of tricks,—to support a long-term action plan for HiAP.

Young people are agents of change in placing HiAP into action – and we want to join hands with you to move into a brighter, healthier future. I wanted to provide a few concrete examples of how we imagine ourselves as part of this process:

1. We’re great advocates—we are both creative, motivated, usually know about the latest gadgets and are unafraid of diving into unknown territory.

Just a three weeks ago, simultaneously to the world health assembly, there was another big event happening in Geneva—the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction 2013. For the first time in history IFMSA attended with a delegation at this UN-High Level Meeting. We had together with the governments, UN departments, parliamentary’s and NGOs attending a shared goal: A goal of improving health outcomes before, during and after emergencies and disasters. From the over 3500 participants at the Global Platform there were only three students, however by working together with the (WHO) delegation, we raised the fact that health is a human right and it is a nations and the international societies responsibility to ensure and needs to be a primary focus in a post-2015 disaster risk reduction framework.

We plan to worth with other youth groups to increase resilience in our communities.

We can push open windows of opportunities and gather political will for HiAP—through our youth networks and with our partners on increasing awareness and understanding for HiAP.  

2. We want to be further involved and lead by example

Within an enabling environment, young people can lay the foundation for further multi-sectorial collaboration.

Specifically, at our early stages of education and training, there is an opportunity to capacity build for leaders within the health and other sectors on a mindset which is systems oriented, more multi-disciplinary and able to process in an interconnected manner for better social, environmental and health outcomes.

E.g. We held a Pre-workshop for youth for the 66th WHA that brought together young people that are working on health issues from all disciplines to create a strategy on specific issues in order to be more effective during the WHA—by not only voicing our perspective, but also seeking out opportunities for direct input into the resolutions, reports and processes of the WHA.    During that time we had dialogue with different countries and learned about the process—reached out to every region.

3. We are furthering HiAP.

HiAP is something that is very close to our hearts as young students. IFMSA started working on advocacy and capacity building on the importance of addressing social determinants of health. We began with  passing a policy statement to guide our activities on SDH and then established an IFMSA Global Health Equity Initiative that conducts training for new SDH champions—we have trained more than 100 students on SDH. We also were present at the WC on SDH in Rio in 2001, where we circulated an alternative students’ perspective. We support initiatives of students on SDH, UHC, and HiaP is in our advocacy and educational priorities, as we support multi-sectoral collaboration.

We are able to use our knowledge, network and tools to evaluate and provide feedback to the HiAP process.

In closing, three main recommendations that I would have is:

1. Get young people involved in a meaningful, participatory way in every stage and level (global, regional, national, local) in your multi-sectorial work.

Whether it is the first dialogue that your government has with agriculture or education sector, having a young person on board not only builds capacity, but also their perspective might provide an innovative approach.

2. Provide young people the space to explore complex problems/issues, by challenging institutions and channeling research funding for focusing on more innovative, multi-disciplinary work.

3. Young people have vast networks and are often already exploring these issues—think about how you can create supportive partnerships with youth organizations.

Investing in young people is investing in a more sustainable future for health in all policies.


On behalf of the Young People at the 8GCHP!


Roopa Dhatt

IFMSA President 2012/13

Link to the video of Emerging Voices:

Emerging Voices at 8GCHP

Link to the Conference Statement: http://www.videonet.fi/who/20130614/2/Statement.pdf

Link to the live streaming record: