Day 0 – Arrival Day
Feeling nervous as ever. Even after all of the detailed and concrete pre-departure training, I still am not quite sure what the week has in store for me. Upon arrival at the airport, I learn that the connecting flight from MTL to NY is overbooked. As I hear the flight attendant call for volunteers to give up their seat, I look to the other side of the room and hear a plea of desperation: “I can’t give up my seat, I’m going to Ghana!” Relieved to have finally found someone from the delegation, I turn to meet Khadija. We head to the gate and find Laurence, and I listen in apprehension as they recount some memorable moments from the general assembly last August.
After a long flight, we wake up in beautiful, sunny, Accra, and are greeted warmly by members of the Organizing Committee. On the bus, I speak with delegates from Ghana, Mexico, and the United States. I marvel at Ghana’s lush greenery, red soil, and bustling city life. It feels so wonderful to be sharing this new experience with delegates from around the world, and I begin to catch a glimpse of the sentiments of belonging and community that I am sure to leave Accra with.
Khadija, Laurence, and I finally find our hotel. We head to the opening ceremony and receive a very spirited welcome from IFMSA – Ghana. After a very informative presentation by the Ghanaian Minister of Health, Professor David Sanders, Director of the Public Health Program from the University of the Western Cape, is welcomed on stage. We are given a comprehensive introduction on the Social Determinants of Health, with themes ranging from the limitations of clinical medicine and the importance of prevention to the direct and integral relationship between inequalities and health disparities. An example to ponder: We know that hand washing is one of the most efficient and cost-effective methods of prevention – but how can we have hand washing without access to water? After reflection, I realized how imperative is it to determine the causes of the causes. Looking around the room, I take-in the sight of 800 students here right now, and think about the 1.2+ million medical students IFMSA represents worldwide. I begin to realize that this group has the will and influence needed to tackle these trans-national inequalities.
After some lovely cultural dances and presentations, we separate to find our respective standing committees. I find and introduce myself to fellow Standing Committee on Human Rights and Peace (SCORP) members. We sit in a circle and express what we feel are the most important human rights issues of our time. Hearing ideas like the human rights violations in Syria, accessible healthcare for vulnerable populations such as undocumented migrants and indigenous populations, access to clean water, I look around at the 41 other delegates and am able to feel the passion in the room. Through their words, I understand that we are all here for the same reasons; to understand that equity IS health, and to advocate that this notion be understood so that change becomes possible.
I then head to meet the rest of the IFMSA-QC delegates by the pool and then head back to the hotel for a deep slumber.