Gemma Whyatt's IFMSA thoughts

Posted by Liban Ahmed

Fri, 25 Nov 2016

My name is Liban Ahmed and I am this years, Director of International Affairs. If you'd like to know more about international opportunities email me at

The suitcase I packed for Mexico was a little different to what I’d pack for a normal trip. Beneath the clothes and shoes were seven union jack flags, shortbread, digestive biscuits, retro sweets and various files and folders. I came home with more strange things including 3 mugs, a papyrus scroll, an indian handbag and many many stickers…

The IFMSA meetings are always quirky like this and it is quite an experience to get used to this culture of standing committees and acronyms, flag stealing and last minute impassioned speeches. The August meeting highlighted to me that international politics affects the relations even between medical students from different countries, with the Serbian students fighting to keep Kosovo’s organisation out of the IFMSA, Venezuela’s NMO (national member organisation) facing years more of debt due to their country’s financial situation, in the hands of the students of other countries with voting rights. Yet at the same time, the collaboration and co-operation was uplifting to see such as students from Egypt, Guatemala, Russia and France discussing how their countries approach healthcare for refugees and what we can learn from one another.

As NEO (national exchange officer) I was sent to the SCOPE (Standing Committee on Professional Exchanges) sessions. It was fantastic for me to finally meet all the people I had been emailing for months, and work with them on issues affecting the exchanges. We talked about how to incorporate global health into the exchange program, initiatives to involve dental students, widen access and to extend the length of exchanges. I made a controversial speech about Palestine’s exchange activities, and accidentally lost voting rights for a day when I kept the voting card overnight. I frantically prepared contract forms with signatures and stamps for the fair, which was incredibly hectic but ultimately successful.

Like everyone, I seem to have caught the IFMSA bug, and am writing this blog from another training event in Barcelona, meeting up with the catalonian friends I met at them first IFMSA event in Malta earlier this year. These events, like the August meeting in Mexico, do change perspectives, with you ultimately leaving inspired and searching for even more ways to ‘think global, act local’.

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