‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people, committed people can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.’ Margaret Mead (1901-1978)
Initially holding the name Medsin, Students for Global Health was born out of this belief, and a recognition that students are in a unique position to serve their local and international community through global health projects. What will the future hold for our student movement for global health? We now have at our disposal an impressive network of thousands, tackling global and local health inequalities from the grassroots level right up to the global determinants of health and healthcare, and our force for change will only continue to grow stronger.
Wigs Bateman, a Sheffield medical student, attended the International Federation of Medical Student Associations (IFMSA) conference in Alexandria, Egypt. Here she was overwhelmed by the impressive energy and dedication of her international counterparts and returned to the UK determined to create a similar forum in which UK students could act on issues they considered important or underrepresented in their curriculum.
1995 – 1996
The first local awareness raising meeting was held at Sheffield, aiming to create a team to begin running human rights and public health projects. This led to a successful project Medsex: training peer educators for sexual health to work in Sheffield schools, and then the first ever branch: Medsin Sheffield. Various groups of students acting on global health from around the country (e.g. Medsex in Sheffield, students running exchanges in St George’s and Nottingham) then joined together for the first time, to form The Medical Students International Network (MedSIN). MedSIN gained key support and encouragement from Mike Rowson of Medact in developing into a student network acting on global health issues.
Medsin’s first campaign: the 2000 Jubilee Debt Campaign
Medsin nurtured new community health projects: e.g. peer-led sexual health education (Medsex, which later became Sexpression), students recruiting donors to the Anthony Nolan bone marrow register through Marrow and refugee health projects in London. For the first time the network also began to use its voice to advocate, campaigning for change, through the Jubilee 2000 debt campaign.
A Medsin Stand at one of the early Medsin National Conferences
Medsin ran its first large-scale National Conference in Edinburgh which, like our conferences today, brought together over 300 students from across the UK to a weekend full of inspirational speakers and workshops to equip. Medsin also began to structure itself and created its first national committee to coordinate the work of the network. The network continued to grow and had 18 member branches, local groups of students from around the country which aimed to inspire students to engage in global health at the grassroots level.
2003 & 2004
The network formed a decision-making body and held its first General Assembly, creating a constitution, by-laws and a brand new Medsin-UK logo. It also promoted its inclusive nature by expanding to recruit non-medical students. In addition, the first “Training New Trainers event” was held which, like TNTs today, allowed those attending to become peer educators to increase the network’s efficiency. Emily Spry from the UK was elected President of the IFMSA at the August Meeting in the Netherlands, 2003.
2005 & 2006
The new Branch Resource Pack, one of the key documents created in 2005, as part of an organisational reform of the network
Medsin achieved charity status, demonstrating its significant efforts to alleviate injustice, and broadened capacity for organisational management. Medsin became more involved in advocacy, developing a Global Health Advocacy Project and Campaigns Officer on the National Committee. Members fostered several successful campaigns from issues such as the democratic process of the World Health Organisation, through to access to healthcare for refused asylum seekers, in addition to responding to governmental consultations. Medsin hosted the IFMSA European Regional Meeting (EuRegMe) in April 2006 in Leicester, which brought together its European partner organisations to educate and inspire advocacy on obesity, tobacco and mental health issues.
2007 & 2008
IFMSA August Meeting 2007, Canterbury, UK
Medsin held its 10th birthday party and launched a new website, and the Alumni network: a chance for graduates from Medsin to share expertise and experience to newer members in the network. Medsin then held the August Meeting of the IFMSA in 2007, in Canterbury bringing hundreds of students from all across the world to the UK for a week full of workshops and sessions in global and public health. The theme ‘Access to Medicines’ was well covered by the organising team of the conference and has since been hailed as a great educational resource by NGOs including Oxfam. Medsin launched the first edition of its global health magazine, a themed issue showcasing the network’s achievements, made available in conjunction with Medsin’s bi-annual conferences.
2009 & 2010
All of Medsin’s 30+ branches were visited, in a ground-breaking branch tour aimed at unifying the network. Medsin voted in a new vision and mission and started implementing longer-term plans for further organising and professionalising the network. These included securing a new office space at King’s College London and implementing significant structural changes to the network such as regional support and a new Board of Trustees, elected by the network to help manage the charity Medsin-UK and support the National Committee in maintaining an active and sustainable network. Medsin made increasing impact on a national and international level through increasingly engaging with the British Medical Association and IFMSA, promoting advocacy on a range of global health issues.
2011 & 2012
Medsin voted in a new constitution, underwent a governance restructure, and launched a new, rebranded website and magazine, aiming to communicate more clearly Medsin’s successes in the fields of Education, Advocacy and Action. Medsin has official representation for the first time at a UN Conference: COP17 in Durban and at the External Partner Meetings on the WHO from the Department of Health.
Medsin’s Long Term Development Plan (2012-2015) is adopted by the General Assembly as the first long-term strategy document of the organisation. Medsin also has its first ever paid sabbatical National Director, Jonathan Meldrum, opening opportunities for Medsin to increase its reach and impact by having a full-time leader.
A huge year for Medsin, as it launches coordinated themes as a way of uniting the network around focused goals and campaigns, starting with the NHS, and the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
The Open Access Button is founded by two Medsin students, Joseph McArthur (UCL, National Committee 2012-13) and David Carroll (Queen’s, Belfast). OAB is a browser bookmark tool that allows users to report when they hit paywalled access to academic articles, mapping out the global scale of everyday instances of people being denied access to needed research.
The Open Access Button wins the Rex Crossley award at the General Assembly of International Federation of Medical Students’ Association. The award is given for the best project in the organisation.
Medsin and Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (a Medsin Affiliate) members collaborate to produce the UK’s first Global Health Research League Table, which compares universities’ contribution to global health research. The League Table is launched at an event at the Houses of Parliament, and receives significant press attention.
The first Agenda Committee of Medsin is formed, to separate the democratic process from the leadership of the organisation, increasing accountability and transparency.
Dr Emily Spry is awarded an Honorary Life Membership of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations at the August Meeting of the IFMSA. The Honorary Life Membership is in recognition of her incredible work and dedication as IFMSA President 2003-2004, IFMSA Training Director 2004-2005, and Supervising Council member 2006-2010. She also served as Medsin President 2002-2003.