Already halfway through
Today marks the end of the third day of GA and with it, the first half of this incredible experience.
March 3rd – Day 1
On our first day, we attended the opening ceremony and dinner organized by the Tunisian Organizing Committee. They started with an overview of the history of Tunisian medicine and included a dance show they organized. From the first few minutes of GA, their hard work and motivation were obvious, and it was clear that this would be one wonderful week. Following the ceremony, our delegation had the opportunity to network with some of the speakers, and other members of our delegation already discussed the details of that night in their blog entries, so I will spare you the redundancy!
March 4th – Day 2
Our second day was divided in three parts. In the morning, I attended the SCORE sessions with our NORE Jouhayna. I got to meet the international SCORE team as well as some of the NOREs and LOREs of other NMOs. We also established ground rules that we would need to follow throughout the week, as well as some punishments for people who do not respect them. And trust me, you do not want those punishments. Jouhayna and I suggested “sing a Celine Dion song” and “dance while singing Justin Bieber’s Baby” and many others suggested much worse. We were also introduced to the bylaw changes we would be voting on days 5 and 6, as well as the workshops we would be attending. We finished our morning session with a joint meeting with SCOPE, where we discussed the wikiExchanges page that we are currently updating. As some of our students were taken by surprise by the type of visa (student visa for example) that was required by some countries (even though those same countries did not require tourist visas), I suggested including a visa section in the wikiExchanges page.
We also had presentations on the Memorandum of Understanding between IFMSA and the International Journal of Medical Students (IJMS) and then the Educational Commission of Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). We both took a strong stand against the Memorandum of Understanding with the ECFMG (more details to come). Basically, ECFMG is a US-based company interested in statistical analysis of our exchange database information. As for the IJMS, we felt the necessity to question its relevance and importance to medical students involved in medical research and aiming to publish in already recognized medical journals, as well as the financial aspects of publishing and subscribing to the IJMS.
In the afternoon, we attended a Regional Meeting with NMOs representing the Americas and got to meet our American (the continent) colleagues. In this meeting, our Regional Coordinator presented the outcomes of the January 2014 Regional Meeting in Panama and we were invited to attend the discussions on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in the evening, as many countries in the region would be greatly affected by it. At night, we participated in a theme event on health in the post-2015 period. In the theme event, we learned about the history of global mobilization for health, the evaluation of the millennium development goals (MDGs) and the role of young people in the mobilization for health.
March 5th – Day 3
As for our third day, our SCORE sessions included two short workshops, a presentation of the new logbook that will be adopted, as well as a joint committee session with SCOPE and SCOME on pre-departure/exchange training. To be quite honest, I did not find the joint committee session on pre-departure training to be very useful. In Quebec, we consider it as a mandatory part of the exchange process, and this training allows us to be well recognized by the different faculties. There was an interesting debate on the relevance of this training. However, given our consensus on the topic in Quebec, I would have preferred a discussion on ways to promote our training and learn from others to improve it. I was still able to defend our stance and hopefully, with time, other NMOs will follow through in order to improve the academic quality of our research exchange program.
In the afternoon, I attended a theme event on Health Policy. It involved two speakers. The first part was a talk by an official from the Tunisian Ministry of Health if I am not mistaken, and was about the Tunisian healthcare system. While it provided us with interesting general knowledge about the local system, I did not see it as very relevant to us. I do believe in the importance of knowing the way other health systems function in other countries, I feel like the content of the presentation could have been better adapted to an international audience. The second part of the theme event was a talk by Mr. Bryan Collinsworth, Executive Director at Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM). It was very interesting and included topics I would have not learned about if it weren’t for this talk.
At night, the plenary was very interesting and included adoption of many reports (that I still need time to fully understand) and presentation of projects, NMOs applying for IFMSA membership, the executive board for the coming year and candidates for hosting the next GA March Meeting in 2015 (Turkey vs. Macedonia). The most touching moment I found in this plenary was when Russia supported Ukraine’s candidature. While we were literally disconnected from the world (the Internet was of horrible quality and the hotel’s network was unable to deal with such a large number of guests), we somehow knew of the evolving situation in Crimea. I know that in my regularly reoccurring moments of political skepticism, I will forever remember this moment where Russian students stood up for their Ukrainian colleagues, regardless of the political climate back home. For me at least, this was a moment of hope that through such events, we can have a positive impact on the world we are building, and not just in the traditional fields of medicine and health.