Our Story

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.


Over the past decades, IFMSA has realized a fair number of special achievements, which have marked the development and continuous growth of the Federation. Below, you can find some of the most recent ones.

IFMSA Exchanges Program, which includes 4-week professional and research exchanges, have been endorsed by the World Federation of Medical Education (WFME), World Organisation of Family Doctors (WONCA), the Federation of European Neuroscience societies (FENS) and the European Society for Emergency Medicine (EuSEM), recognizing the academic quality and the professional organisation of our program.

IFMSA has received, for two UNESCO Participation Program in a row (2012-2013 and 2014-2015), financial support to organize capacity building activities around the world, mainly in the field of sexual and reproductive health and youth leadership in Africa. In the early 2000s, IFMSA also received a substantial grant to develop the leadership training program.

For four years now, IFMSA has run a 3-day youth-oriented capacity building event in global health advocacy, governance and diplomacy prior to the annual World Health Assembly. Each edition has welcomed over forty students from various fields, including health, law, politics and economics.

Over the past decades, IFMSA has been able to secure internships for medical students in various United Nations Institutions, such as the World Health Organisation. Those fruitful partnerships have enable generations of medical students to receive training in the highest governance bodies, and to understand better the global health political landscape.

Each year, IFMSA organizes two general assemblies and five regional meetings, which welcome over 3000 medical students. Those meetings give future leaders an inspiring space to meet, discuss and exchanges brilliant ideas and projects.



IFMSA received a Gold Medaille d’Excellence from the International Human Rights Consortium for the creation of a kit entitled HIV/AIDS and Human Rights: Young People in Action.


IFMSA and the World Health Organization jointly conducted a Global Survey on Geriatrics in the Medical Curriculum. The results were compiled in a short publication.


IFMSA published a report with the Council of Europe on health and human rights of Refugees, immigrants and minorities in Europe.


The World Health Organization, the World Federation of Medical Education (WFME) and IFMSA, as an executive member of the WFME, launched a strategic partnership to improve medical education worldwide by setting up an international task force on accreditation. The results have been formulated in a set of guidelines for accreditation of basic medical education institutions and programs that were launched in 2005.


IFMSA created the first students task force of the Association for Medical Education in Europe (AMEE) conference. It has been successfully existing ever since.

As IFMSA was celebrating its 50th anniversary, Kofi Annan, the then United Nations Secretary General, wrote in a letter to the Federation: As Medical students committed to sharing your knowledge and skills internationally, you are a powerful source of hope for the future. I commend your determination to use your medical training to benefit all members of society.

June 2012

IFMSA took an active leadership role in the drafting of the Rio+20 Process on sustainable development. The Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr Margaret Chan, has stated in several occasions that without IFMSA efforts, health would have not be given such a high level of considerations in the final declaration.

October 2014

IFMSA has won the the Health Systems Global Award – Civil Organization Category. This award was given to the organization that best employs social media to engage civil society in health systems-related dialogue.

November 2014

IFMSA co-founded the World Healthcare Students Alliance (WHSA) together with the International Pharmaceutical Students Federation and the International Association of Dental Students (IADS). The WHSA, which now includes the International Veterinary Students Associations (IVSA), is a coalition of international health student-run organizations aiming to strengthen interdisciplinary healthcare-related advocacy; to commonly contribute to the advancement of global health; and to develop and implement improved health policies together with multi-sectorial stakeholders. The Alliance has a reach-out capacity of over 1.8 million health students in more than 100 countries worldwide.

December 2014

At the 20th UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP20), IFMSA successfully advocated for a greater recognition of health considerations within climate change negotiations. The concept of health co-benefits, which was originally not included in the draft text, was integrated in the final version of the Lima Call for Action.

April 2015

In April 2015, IFMSA co-signed a letter, which was published in the Guardian, calling on top charities to drop their fossil fuels company interests. IFMSA recognized that it shares a responsibility to our future patients to address unmitigated climate change, the biggest health threat of the 21st century, and to advocate for a transition to a healthier, more sustainable economy.

May 2015

In May 2015, IFMSA has signed an historic agreement with the World Medical Association (WMA), after a fruitful collaboration of over fifty years. Both organisations agreed to strengthen and mutually support their respective work, so to increase the collaboration between the future and current health professionals.


For the year 2015, IFMSA was granted financial support from Erasmus+ Program, under Key Action 3, to support the core operations of the Federation.