The International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations was one of the numerous international student organizations set up directly after the end of the Second World War. The first meeting that saw the establishment of the Federation was held in Copenhagen, Denmark in May 1951. The first members of this new organization were England, Austria, the Federal Republic of Germany, Finland, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Denmark. London saw the first General Assembly of IFMSA in July 1952. The meeting had a total of thirty participants from ten countries.

The growth of IFMSA through the years has been remarkable. Starting from the exclusively European founding organizations the Federation has expanded to include more than 100 members from all over the world in the sixty years of our organization.

IFMSA has always focused on student mobility and exchange as well as conference and workshop organization. The first conferences were the Student International Clinical Conferences, which were quite successful in the 1950s. Various summer schools have been organized through the years, starting in 1963 in Denmark, the UK and Scandinavia. Other conferences have discussed medical education, drugs and AIDS and HIV issues. In the 1960s projects were organized to help less advantaged students in developing countries: the Book Aid project, which aimed to send medical books from wealthier nations to the developing ones, and the Equipment Appeal, which promoted the shipping of surplus medical equipment to these countries.

The 1970s medical students saw a need for the decentralization of IFMSA. To this aim, IFMSA contributed to the creation of regional medical student organizations in Africa and Asia. Subsequently, regional vice-presidents were elected for six regions as a way of promoting regionalization but this structure was abandoned after a few years.

In the early 1980s, IFMSA issued a number of resolutions and declarations on topics ranging from Medical Education to the Prevention of Nuclear War to Primary Health Care. In the late 80s, there was a push towards organizing projects that would be able to make a change locally and thus the Village Concept Project idea was born after collaboration with other international student organizations. 1986 also saw the start of the Leadership Training Programs in collaboration with World Health Organization. Some of these training programs are still active today.

Official relations with WHO started back in 1969, when the collaboration resulted in the organization of a symposium on “Programmed Learning in Medical Education”, as well as immunology and tropical medicine programs. In the following years, IFMSA and WHO collaborated in the organization of a number of workshops and training programs. IFMSA has been collaborating with UNESCO since 1971. Since 2007 IFMSA has been an official supporting organization of HIFA2015 (Healthcare Information For All by 2015).

In the early 2000s, IFMSA created its five regions, to support the continuous growth of the Federation and to increase its outreach on the national level. It also adopted a new set of constitution and bylaws, to suit between the work of IFMSA.

August 2014 was a decisive moment for the Federation. After several years of discussions, working groups and taskforces, the Federation unanimously adopted a structural reform, which is to enter in full effects on October 1st, 2015. The reform was complemented with the implementation of a permanent secretariat in Amsterdam, the transition from Projects to Programs and the adoption of a 3-year strategy.


For more information about the history of IFMSA, read our 60th Anniversary Booklet: