Day 1 – Knowledge
Today was all about gaining a comprehensive and global understanding of human rights, linking specific human rights violations to health disparities on the international scale, and learning about how to use human rights advocacy techniques in order to express these views and to drive social change. Starting from the basics was exactly what I needed in order to connect my past experiences in human rights and social justice issues to my being here today, and to project this knowledge towards my future as a socially responsible healthcare professional. Through the discussions between delegates, I was able to understand the notion that inequalities are deeply rooted, and indeed, represent a diverse set of issues. I hear testimonials from past detainees in Mexico and peaceful protesters from Syria, stories of ignored health needs of undocumented migrants in the detention centers in UK, and appreciated the perspectives from the people from Sudan and other regions where most do not enjoy the same rights we have in Canada.
We meet with the Liaison Officers for UNESCO and for WHO, and learn about the incredible opportunities they have to offer. We learn about grant opportunities, connections with externals, access to publications and international conferences, as well as possibilities for multidisciplinary internships. I meet with both officers to ask some questions.
After an exhausting but enriching morning, we head to National Member Organization (NMO) meeting. This is where fellow delegates from IFMSA-Quebec and CFMS-Canada meet and discuss our experiences. Throughout this meeting, I find that most of my questions are answered and that IFMSA’s structure and procedures are clarified and made easy to understand for newcomers. I think I finally understand what a plenary is :).We go over our expectations for the meeting, and it was very enriching to gain an understanding of what the other delegates were up to. I am happy to see that we are a very diverse and talented group of people who all have something interesting and unique to bring to the table. With members from different standing committees, I appreciate our team’s diversity and see so much strength and promise. I also appreciated the openness and approachability of our presidents, Yassen and Paxton, as well as the raw and practical advice I got from more experienced delegates.
After NMO hour, we head to the Regional Meeting. One word to describe this experience: energy. The energy from the leaders of the meeting was contagious, and after discussing projects as well as the building of PAMSA’s vision, I am able to leave the room with a better understanding of IFMSA’s structure. I was able to understand the importance of NMO representation in addition to the need for more global and regional representation – in order to adjust for IFMSA members’ cultural climate, all the while realizing consistency in order to work efficiently to achieve IFMSA’s mission.
We head to the theme event presented by Dr. Villar of WHO. The following quote was very inspiring to me, and to hear it from such an accomplished and knowledgeable individual, representative of WHO, made it all that more real. “To reduce inequalities, the role of physicians is critical, and the role of medical students, essential”. We are then equipped with concrete tools in order to exert our influence as medical students. Firstly, importance was placed on research, in order to gain a comprehensive and concrete understanding of inequities worldwide. Second, the notion that global health can only be achieved through equity was made clear. Finally, we were taught that advocacy was the best catalyst for change. How? Through the members sitting in that very room and through building on the incredible advocacy work IFMSA spearheads daily.
We head to the project presentations; something that I am particularly ecstatic about. One of my key objectives for this meeting was to learn about IFMSA projects and activities that I can implement back home. I also hoped to gain ideas for new projects. One project that particularly excited me was ILLUMINAIDS, and I made a note to connect the project themes with my hope of implementing CFMS’ HIV/AIDS elective project back home. I also loved LabMONDE, a project that works on global health education with a focus on health inequalities and policies. I also enjoyed the Sexperience UK presentation, and was able to connect the ideas with my Sexperts (sex education) work back home.
At the social event, I speak with members of our delegation and we reflect about the day and share some laughs. I meet with the president from India, and learn about their hopes for becoming a recognized member of IFMSA. His passion and will is transcending and tangible. I meet with Arabella from Kenya, and we reflect on what we learned today in the Human Rights and Peace sessions. Curious about the healthcare system in Kenya and about her experience with Massai culture, I listen to Arabella tell me about her home.