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‘Making Change Happen’ The Advocacy Pre-GA New York, 5- 9th March, 2013

Report of the IFMSA Advocacy Pre-GA An International Federation of Medical Students Associations Training Event

IFMSA Coordinators – Felicity Jones & Dan Knights AMSA-USA Coordinators – Susanna O’Kula & Riju Banjeree With thanks to Liz Wiley (President of AMSA- USA) & Roopa Dhatt (President of IFMSA) And Hollie Kluckewski, Genvieve Bois and Alex Lebefvre (Pre-GA Facilitators)


‘Making Change Happen’ The Advocacy Pre-GA New York, 5- 9th March, 2013

An Overview On Tuesday the 5th of March, 2013, 75 students from 31 different countries descended upon Mount Sinai Medical School, New York. Their mission? To learn “How to lead & advocate for improved health as a physician-in-training” The four-day training conference was hosted by the International Federation of Medical Student Associations (IFMSA), the world’s oldest and largest independent organisation representing associations of medical students internationally. It currently maintains 108 National Member Organizations from over 100 countries across six continents and represents more than 1.2 million students worldwide. The IFMSA holds two General Assemblies a year, events which bring together around 1000 students to discuss key global health issues, debate policy and coordinate the more than 10.000 student clinical and research exchanges which they run across the globe annually. The advocacy training conference or Pre-General Assembly (PreGA) was held before the 5-day March Assembly 2013, in Baltimore, on the same theme: ‘Advocacy and the Physician-intraining’. Hosted by the American Medical Student Associations (AMSA-USA), the March assembly inspired the wider IFMSA community to engage in advocacy.

Hich draw together

“One of the IFMSA’s key aims is to empower and train medical students to become advocates in leading social change, and the Advocacy Pre-GA provided an opportunity to do this through equipping a new generation of advocates.” Explained Dan Knights, joint IFMSA coordinator of the programme. The conference opened with a ceremony with speeches on the importance of advocacy and leadership within the medical profession, and a brief consideration of the global context of advocacy within health. Dr Richard Hurt, gave an inspiring key note speech on the ways in which medical students and physicians can alter public policy, using his personal experience in exposing the devious tactics of tobacco companies in the United States. In the following two days participants attended a range of training sessions, plenaries and panel debates and sites around New York. The last day was spent in smaller groups focused around topics in global health, and provided the opportunity for participants to plan an advocacy strategy for an area of IFMSA’s work. “Participants left with a whole range of new skills and knowledge, which they had already practised applying” said Felicity Jones, the other joint IFMSA Coordinator.

View across Central Park from the training rooms in Mount Sinai Medical School.


‘Making Change Happen’ The Advocacy Pre-GA New York, 5- 9th March, 2013 Speakers and Panels Delegates received four interactive lecture sessions on the core topics of the Pre-GA; advocacy, leadership, global health and health equity. These were delivered by local experts such as Werner Obermayer, WHO representative to the UN. There were also two panel debates which gave panellists and participants alike the opportunity to debate ‘How can we affect change in global health?’ and ‘What defines a successful campaign?’

The 2nd panel debate, discussing campaign strategy

Small Group Training Training sessions in groups of 15 or smaller gave delegates the opportunity to develop skills in a more interactive and informal setting. Delegates were able to choose from sessions covering core skills required to organise a campaign, such as strategic planning and recruiting and facilitating a team, campaign strategy at local, national and international levels, and specific areas of campaigns, such as media engagement.

A training session on developing leadership skills

Site Visits A wide range of advocacy-related and sightseeing trips made the most of the PreGA’s fantastic location! Trips ranged from a trip to the UN, where delegates learnt about the functions of the organisation to a visit to the New York Department of Public Health and Mental Hygiene where experts and strategists explained local programmes, to a visit to a local shelter for vulnerable groups to explore access to healthcare.

A site visit to the UN headquarters in New York

Social Programme At the end of a busy day’s training delegates finally had the opportunity to relax! Socials allowed further exploration of New York, through a guided visit to some of the local bars, and to Times Square. Additionally two events brought together local students and physicians and IFMSA delegates to network, allowing sharing of ideas and experience.

A group at the Sinai – IFMSA Student Mixer Event


‘Making Change Happen’ The Advocacy Pre-GA New York, 5- 9th March, 2013

The Last Day: Putting it All into Practice On the last day, participants took matters into their own hands and worked in small breakout groups to form their own strategic advocacy plans, each supported by an expert facilitator. After a brief educational introduction participants worked through the process of designing a common vision and mission, and then form a common set of aims and objectives and strategy for recruiting additional supporters, communicating their plans, and specific advocacy opportunities to implement change. “It was a great opportunity to learn and start working for ourselves with support from a great facilitator. We ended up with significant results and obtained beneficial skills that we will definitely be needing in the future.” – Yazan, Jordan Six new advocacy campaigns arose and were presented to one another in the closing ceremony. These covered diverse topics, with student groups aiming to tackle significant areas of inequity in their own country: e.g. a group aiming to improve conditions for the homeless and another advocating for improved access to family planning advice and resources. Other groups looked at improving IFMSA’s work, such as advocating for more ethical exchanges through the development of mandatory pre-departure training, whilst yet another aimed to improve medical education through advocating for provision of leadership and advocacy training within their curricula.

Feedback “I learnt that change only starts with you and you shouldn’t wait for someone to start it for it will never be that way. I also learnt that as doctors we are leaders and as thus have to lead our people to ‘GOOD HEALTH’. – Gerald, Tanzania

More detailed feedback by section of the programme is available upon request,

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The Pre-GA received excellent feedback with very significant increases in participant’s understanding of advocacy (right), advocacy skills, and desire to advocate reported by delegates. Delegates reported that they particularly enjoyed the site visits, choice available to them within the programme (which was feasible because of the large numbers of delegate involved), and the opportunity to put their learning into practice through developing campaigns on the last day.

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Completed Report on 'Making Change Happen'