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IFMSA March Meeting 2013- Baltimore USA

“Fortunate are those who take the first steps.” ― Paulo Coelho

This portrays the experience of the JAMAICA Medical Students’ Association ( JAMSA) Delegation to the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) March Meeting 2013- Baltimore, U.S.A. March 9, 2013 was the arrival day and day 1 of the March Meeting. The eight delegates from Jamaica made preparations well in advance and were now on their way to cold, cold Baltimore.

  1. - the body that represents medical students from over 100 National Member Organizations (NMOs) has been affiliated with International Organizations including the World Health Organization and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Within this international body, there are regional bodies including the Pan American Medical Students Association (PAMSA) of which JAMSA is a member.

Members of the JAMSA Delegation were:

Head of Delegation and Vice President for Internal Affairs- Sachalee Campbell; Secretary General- Brandon Dixon; Directors of the Standing Committees on Medical Education, Research Exchange and Public Health - Anna-Lee Clarke, Auvarhenne Howell, Adrian Coore respectively; Director of the Division on Health Policy Development- Jason Knight, IT Representative and Webmaster- Errol Williamson, Class of 2017 President- Annya Gordon-Whyte.

The delegates took different, adventurous routes and each encountered obstacles along the way, but having decided on where we were headed, we all eventually arrived at the Sheraton, Baltimore City Centre for one of the most exciting and hectic weeks of our lives.

This General Assembly was a special one for JAMSA as it has seen the largest delegation in at least the last three years and I must say that I was happy to be the Head of Delegation.

Following our adventures of arrival and checking-in, we had dinner at the Tir Na Nog Restaurant- Baltimore Inner Harbour and then prepared for the Opening Ceremony of March Meeting 2013. Dr. Cecil Wilson, President of the World Medical Association was the Guest Speaker. He spoke on the research process and the related conflicts of interest, especially as it relates to collaborations with pharmaceutical companies.

 The Opening Ceremony also saw the Syria Campaign team, of which I was a member, making its first official statement during this General Assembly. The theme for this campaign was ‘Situation Syria: Hope for the Hopeless’. For the past two years, Syria has been experiencing civil unrest and has had numerous persons leaving the country in search of peace. IFMSA- Jordan recognized their need and made an effort to assist those refugees who fled to Jordan. IFMSA also saw the dire situation and decided to offer some assistance, hence the development of this campaign. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF-Doctors Without Borders) an international aid organization which offers assistance to civilians in those countries with unrest, was chosen as the organization to which IFMSA would make a contribution. Each delegate at the March Meeting was encouraged to play his/her part by making a monetary contribution.

The day was brought to a close with the first Plenary of this March Meeting. Plenary sessions are similar to Parliamentary gatherings and are the sessions in which important decisions within IFMSA are made.

Day 2 of the meeting began quite early with the day as we were now into Daylight Saving Hours. We all got up and had breakfast by 8:15 am and then headed to our various meetings: Standing Committee Sessions, Presidents’ Session, and National Member Organization (NMO) Management Session. These sessions enabled members of our delegation to learn more of the structure and work of IFMSA and also to share our experiences as Medical Students.

On Day 2 of MM 2013, we also had our first NMO hour. NMO hour is featured on most days of each General Assembly and is necessary as a time in which delegates meet with other members of their NMO to discuss the day’s events, ensure all persons have been adjusting well and also make important decisions on which there would be voting later in the meeting.

This was followed by regional meetings. As mentioned before, JAMSA is a member of the Pan American Medical Students’ Association. PAMSA can be described as the ‘party central’ of IFMSA and saw regional meetings having dance sessions during breaks. This year is also the 10th anniversary of PAMSA and we look forward to the activities that will be used in the celebrations.

Another highlight of this day was the Project Presentations which was the forum in which different Standing Committees were allowed to share their creative projects with delegates.

The highlights of Day 3 were the Training Sessions, Open Access Presentation and the National Food and Drink Party.

Training Sessions are offered at each General Assembly in areas including Leadership, Advocacy and Time Management. Delegates from each NMO had the opportunity to access training hosted by fellow IFMSAians who have been certified as ‘IFMSA Trainers’. These sessions aim at self- development of each delegate as well as improving our work within our various medical students’ associations.

The Open Access Presentation: Making Knowledge Available for Providers and Patients was important to IFMSA as the Federation now works to encourage information being made more readily available especially that related to health/ patient care. The presenter was Carlos Rossel, the World Bank publisher who has been championing the cause to have the World Bank’s printed material transformed to electronic documents thus enabling open access. Open access refers to the  thrust to encourage electronic documents being made available to the general public via the internet. Even more specifically, the aim for open access has been to make Peer- reviewed journal articles available free of cost. This is of importance to us as future doctors as we believe that it is imperative that all persons have information available to help them make the best decisions for their health.  IFMSA’s policy statement on Open Access speaks to the belief of IFMSA members and to the Federation’s support of the work of the Right to Research Coalition of which several NMO’s have become members.

So, after a full day, everyone was deserving of a break… well, break along with work for some, as the National Food and Drink Night occurred simultaneously with the night’s Plenary session.

One highlight of Day 4 was the AF Market where different National Member Organizations (NMO’s) had the opportunity to present their countries to other NMO’s in order to encourage the signing of contracts for Professional Exchanges. This is important to JAMSA as our MBBS programme offers two Elective periods in which students have the option of doing their Electives abroad. The AF Market also enabled JAMSA’s delegates to better appreciate other countries and what they have to offer if our students should be interested in doing their electives in these countries.

Day 6, the final day of activities for March Meeting, 2013, began quite early as we journeyed from Baltimore to Washington DC. The destination venue was the ‘Walter Washington Convention Center’.  Here, the various standing committees, National Member Organization Management and President Sessions had their final meetings for this March Meeting. The day also offered the opportunity for delegates to tour Washington DC area between meetings. The final event was the Closing Ceremony. This was a bitter-sweet moment for some as they would soon be leaving the friends they met at the Meeting and yet, persons looked forward to going home. The speaker of this ceremony was Social Activist and Clown, Patch Adams, M.D., the Founder and Director of Gesundheit! Institute.

Departure Day, Day 7, was there sooner than we had expected. Our exit from Baltimore was the beginning of a journey as social media would soon be buzzing with new friends being added and numerous photos being posted. At the close of MM2013, delegates have already begun to look forward to AM2013 which will be hosted by IFMSA-Chile in Santiago.


Sachalee Campbell (JAMSA- V.P. Internal Affairs 2012-2013, UWI STAT Ambassador)


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