1000 medical students. and that’s just those who attend the conferences. Think about the potential….
The first thing needed for any advocacy is a problem to advocate on. Obviously in the world there are plenty, but they have to be realized, noticed, in the public arena.
The second requirement for advocacy is passion. Well a person, or several people who are passionate about a cause. The IFMSA is certainly not short of fresh, young, idealistic passion. Ask anyone who has attended a meeting, and they will tell you it is one of the most noticeable things about attending a Ga.
So, there is no shortage of problems. and no shortage of passion. Currently, the collision of problems and passion produces projects and policy statements. Policy statements are in existence on a whole host of issues. A small group of students get together and write a statement on an issue, effectively deciding the overall opinion of the IFMSA. Projects are known as the heart of the IFMSA, namely where students step up to fill a gap they have identified, whether that be a lack of first aid training for medical students, a shortage of breast cancer screening , or a scarcity of safe drinking water. Many IFMSA projects are fantastic, and I do not in any way want to take away from the great work they do. But I am all about one thing.
Rarely, very rarely do problem + passion = advocacy. Advocacy, for want of a better definition, being a movement for long term, sustainable positive change addressing the root cause of a problem. This is what I feel is missing.
Why is this the case?
An advocacy movement needs to be effective, and in order to be effective it needs to be well planned and coordinated, in other words it requires strong leadership.
The IFMSA is all about democracy. Everything is done in a team, everything is decided in plenary, everyone is entitled to a say. But sometimes, to get things done, one person has to be the leader. Often, IFMSA policy statements are developed in a team. The policy statements produced are often very high quality, but there is then no one person responsible for implementing the policy statement into action. So herein lies the problem.
There is a lack of leadership in taking things to the next level. And possibly a misunderstanding of advocacy, an under appreciation of the benefits, and a lack of training on how to even start.
At the recent august meeting, a new advocacy support division was adopted. This motion was put forward by Germany, and is a huge step in the right direction, giving ownership of advocacy to a specified group. The group is still in formation, and the exact responsibilities and function of the group are yet to be decided. But let’s hope that the power of the IFMSA is about to bloom. The power that thousands of young medical students is about to be realized, and we can expand our work to campaign for long term, sustainable positive change.