IFMSA 62ND General Assembly, Baltimore

Wilson_edited-1 (12.03.13) The 62nd General Assembly (GA) of the International Federation of Medical Student Associations (IFMSA), with 1000 in attendance, and led by its president, Roopa Dhatt, opened March 9 in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. The theme of the conference is "Advocacy and the Physician in Training". This is the first time the GA has been in the US in over 30 years. The American Medical Students Association (AMSA) is hosting the event.  It will be in session for five days in Baltimore followed by a day in Washington, D.C. where it will join with AMSA, which is holding its annual convention (2500 delegates expected) there.

In her presidential message to the IFMSA GA Roopa Dhatt highlighted the work of IFMSA in bringing together "....medical students from around the world to exchange ideas, capacity build, create projects and campaigns and most importantly capture the voice of medical students on health issues." She shared her hope that the meeting would bring to the delegates "inspiration, creative action and an opportunity to connect with the global community."

120313 ifmsa1From left - Cecil Wilson, MD (WMA President), Roopa Dhatt (IFMSA President)

It was my privilege to give the opening speech to the General Assembly. I shared my optimism and enthusiasm about the future for medicine as well as the challenges we face. These include the moral imperative of ethics in medicine; the challenge of noncommunicable diseases affected by the social determinants of health, and the threat of climate change. I also encouraged the Delegates to continue their active involvement in advocacy in their own national medical associations.

On the second day I led a discussion at the President's Forum on conflicts of interests faced by physicians as they interact with commercial interests. I also spoke to the IFMSA  alumni group led by Charles Nwobu, Division Director, where I gave an overview of health care systems around the world and their impact on health care and the work of physicians.

120313 ifmsa2From left - Charles Nwobu (IFMSA Alumni Relations Support Division Director), Cecil Wilson, MD (WMA President)

IFMSA was founded in 1951. It is the world's oldest and largest independent organization representing associations of medical students internationally. Its membership currently numbers 108 national member organizations from more than 100 countries across six continents with over 1.2 million students represented.

IFMSA is recognized as a non-governmental organization within the United Nations system and the World Health Organization (WHO). In addition, it works with the World Medical Association (WMA).

IFMSA states as its core purpose to "bring together the global community of medical students at the local, national and international level on social and health issues."

"The mission of IFMSA is to offer future physicians a comprehensive introduction to global health issues. Through our programs and opportunities, we develop culturally sensitive students of medicine, intent on influencing the transnational inequalities that shape the health of our planet.


  • To expose all medical students to humanitarian and health issues, providing them with the opportunity to educate themselves and their peers;
  • To facilitate partnerships between the medical students' community and international organizations working on health, education and social issues;
  • To give all medical students the opportunity to take part in clinical and research exchange around the world;
  • To provide a network that links active medical students across the globe, including student leaders, project managers and activists, so that they can learn from and be motivated by each other;
  • To provide an international framework in which medical student projects can be realized;
  • To empower and train medical students to become advocates in leading social change."

Life is filled with opportunities and responsibilities. And I believe that nowhere are those opportunities and responsibilities found in greater measure than in the profession of medicine.

We as physicians have the opportunity and responsibility to not only provide the best possible care, but also to advocate in society to assure that care is provided in an environment that is supportive.

As always, attending meetings like the IFMSA General Assembly, where I see so many bright, dedicated medical students involving themselves in advocacy, reassures me about the future of the medical profession and the patients we serve. 

WMA President Cecil. B. Wilson, MD travels around the world talking about the WMA's work representing the millions of physicians worldwide. Acting on behalf of patients and physicians, the WMA endeavors to achieve the highest possible standards of medical care, ethics, education and health related human rights for all people. This blog will chronicle these travels and important issues.