Medical Education at the World Health Summit

“Medical Education has a common global aim: empower future physicians to improve the health of individual patients and their societies, recognizing the relationships between the two. Physicians in today’s interlinked and globalized world increasingly need an in-depth understanding of the complex interdependencies affecting health”[1].

These are words from the M8 Alliance outcomes document from the World Health Summit 2014, Berlin, where Medical Education was one of the priority topics that were discussed.

IFMSA was present during the several discussions that were related to Medical Education this WHS. Read below to find out more about what was discussed in the different topics

Global Health Education
It is always exciting to see global health education taking the attention of key actors from across the world, and the specific workshop on the topic at the World Health Summit was testament to the perception of global health as a key knowledge area for the doctors of tomorrow. Medical students and postgraduates alike took the opportunity to discuss the topic in the pre-WHS workshop as well. Discussion amongst the students included the advantages of cementing global health with the faculty, and not just from voluntary work by students, and also the best ways to deliver global health education as a core part of the curriculum, which is reflected by the IFMSA Global Policy in Medical Education. [2.]

During the summit itself, the global health education session was limited to 1 1/2 hours, however, the session will continue after the meeting itself as a working group will be created with the aim of developing a set of core competencies in the field of Global Health Education that every student should posess.

IFMSA has been working in the field of global health education for many years, with the most recent project involving a survey of medical students who have campaigned for more of the subject in their curricula. The coordinator of the small working group currently analysing the results of the survey was also present at the summit and was able to network with parties interested in our work to create a consultation group of experts to help guide this project.

Civil society mobilization for health
One of the topics that could not have been absent from a forum such as the WHS was the Health Workforce with a specific attention towards braindrain. The Global Health workforce crises currently developed to a healthcare workers scarcity of 7.2 million healthcare workers, for 80% of the population. The session recognized the need for a global commitment to strenthen the health workforce for all, as well as improving the working conditions for healthcare professionals as well as students worldwide, to prevent the workforce from decreasing even more. This was also addressed during the opening ceremony of the WHS, where three young leaders including IFMSA spoke out about their fears for healthcare and the need to act. The session recognized the need for civel society engagement and empowerment, as well as the role of and actions taken by medical students. [3.]

Social Accountability in Medical Education
The session addressed medicine as a public trust; society trusts medical professionals to place interests of patients and public above all individual doctors and the profession, setting and maintaining standards for competency, adhering to principles of professionalism. We have the obligation to direct educational research to comply with the concerns of the patients and communities that we serve. Medical students should be prepared for a diverse world to function in optimally and be able to recognize ethics issues. We looked into how patient can play a key role in education by creating a collaboration with them instead of a one way treatment relationship. We looked into how medical education is changing over the years, quoting Kr. Sethuraman: “Are we physicians of tomorrow tought by the teachers of today using the curriculum of the past”.

Outcomes of the meeting
The M8 Alliance concluded the closing ceremony with the following call for action:
→ A worldwide harmonized Global Health Curriculum for medical students should be developed to provide tomorrow’s physicians with the core skills and knowledge to take on a global interdisciplinary perspective on health and thus enable them to effectively meet the challenges posed to health by globalization on the individual, social and global scale.
→ In medical education emphasis must be placed on the social and medical determinants of health, public health and the prevention of diseases.
→ High quality education of other health professionals needs to be ensured and sustained.
→ Ongoing educational engagement with the general public regarding health literacy is an essential activity. It warrants immediate attention to empower the whole of society to interact with health systems to take responsibility for health.

Lastly, not only were we very pleased with a meeting such as the World Health Summit, which brings together leaders in academia and policy, took on the important topic of medical education and recognized the important of global health aspects related to it, we’re also very proud of the strong student representation present throughout the meeting. We’re looking forward to seeing the action points to actually be considered and placed into action, and we’re looking forward to doing our part in this.

Stijntje Dijk
IFMSA Liaison Officer for Medical Education Issues

Beth Thomas
Coordinator of the IFMSA Working Group on Global Health Education

This blog entry is part of a mini serie on students’ perspectives at the World Health Summit 2014 in Berlin. Come back on the blog in a few days for more thoughts!

— References —
[1.] M8 Alliance Statement 2014, World Health Summit, Berlin October 19 – 22, 2014, “Health is more than Medicine” –
[2.] IFMSA Global Policy in Medical Education – adopted AM14, Taiwan, China
[3.] IFMSA Policy Statement on Human Resources for Health – Adopted AM14, Taiwan, China

IFMSA Press Release, October 21st 2014:

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