This year, I was lucky enough to be a part of the UK delegation that went to the International Federation of Medical Students Association (IFMSA)’s 2018 March Meeting conference (MM18) in Hurghada, Egypt. The experience itself was absolutely marvellous, as it was a week spent in a fabulous resort with over 1000 other students who were as passionate about global health as we were! I learnt so much about global health in general, the IFMSA, how it works and developed many skills. It was a fantastic way to network and meet friends from around the world.
One of the reasons I felt that I got so much out of the week was because I wrote the policy on Neglected Tropical Diseases or ‘NTDs’. I had no idea I was going to write a policy when I applied for MM18 but then 3-4 months before the conference, there was a call for people to write policies for the IFMSA. I had never written a policy for anyone before and barely even knew what a policy was! But, another member of the group noticed that there was no IFMSA policy on NTDs. I was interested in NTDs. I was also mildly curious about the IFMSA. So, I volunteered to write it and the other delegates supported me every step of the way.
At this point, you may be thinking, what is a policy!? In short, a policy is the IFMSA’s stance on a particular issue. The IFMSA represents the views of over 1 million students from 140 countries, so it’s important to have a document that summarises the views of the IFMSA when attending external meetings like the World Health Assembly. You can find all policies on the IFMSA website and even though they look very professional and mildly intimidating, they are surprisingly writable. They consist of a summary of the IFMSA’s ‘calls to action’, a bit of background to the topic, why the IFMSA has decided those ‘calls to action’ are the best course of action, and a conclusion- around 6 pages in total.
The draft policy requires collaboration with another country (or ‘National Member Organisation’) and someone from the ‘Team of Officials’, which is to ensure you’ve got some support when writing it. Together the three of you make up the ‘Policy Commission’. The draft is submitted 3 months before the meeting in which time anyone from around the world can propose amendments. It is then debated at the meeting before being voted on.
Somehow, my policy was accepted – and it was just the most majestic feeling. Writing the original draft had not been too onerous and having the chance to work with people from across the world was incredible, as I learnt so much and it made me think about things from new perspectives. Knowing that my words are now going to be used to represent the IFMSA at meetings as high level as the World Health Assembly is just unreal.
So, if you’re passionate about a topic and notice that there is no IFMSA policy or the existing policy is out of date, consider paving the way and writing one. If you like travelling and learning about global health, then the IFMSA meetings might be for you. And if you enjoy going to national SFGH conferences, you’ll definitely enjoy the IFMSA meetings; they’re a super-charged, bigger, more international version of the national GAs we all know and love so I highly recommend applying!