I am Jeremy Glasner, a final year medical student from the University of Bern in Switzerland and I would like to share with you one of the main reasons the AMEE Conference 2017 in Helsinki will remain unforgettable for me.
It all started back in June 2016 when I was appointed co-coordinator for the development of a students’ toolkit on social accountability (SA) together with Stijntje Dijk, the former Liaison Officer for Medical Education issues (LME) of IFMSA. For those less familiar with the concept, SA is the obligation that medical schools have to respond to the health needs of the community which they serve. In Switzerland, for example, we need more general practitioners (GPs) in rural areas. Consequently, medical schools in my country have the responsibility to educate more GPs and to promote general practice. It’s as simple as that but unfortunately, implementing this concept is probably one of the biggest current challenges in medical education.
In collaboration with the Training for Health Equity network (THEnet), a global movement advocating for the education of a socially accountable health workforce, the IFMSA decided to tackle the issue of SA in medical schools through a bottom-up approach. We wanted to empower every medical student on earth to improve the SA of his/her own school without necessarily having previous experience in this field.
From the beginning, our mission was clear: we had to create something with enough specific information and tools to be useful and at the same time accessible enough to be implemented by students across the globe. We worked tirelessly for months with a team of three amazing medical students from three different continents to draft a first version. Our presence at the AMEE Conference in Barcelona last year and at the World Summit on Social Accountability in Tunisia this year enabled us not only to present this first version there but also to be inspired by sessions on this topic and to receive some valuable feedback for our work. We then did a round of revision: THEnet and the World Organization of Family Doctors (WONCA) provided an expert review and four medical students spread throughout the globe conducted a peer review.
Finally, here I was at the AMEE 2017, standing in front of a too large screen having too little time, presenting the result of this incredible teamwork. The last version of the toolkit is an 18-page PDF document with four main parts. The first one contains a comprehensive description of SA including its key principles and values. The second part emphasises the important role that medical students have as essential stakeholders in SA. In the third chapter, there is an assessment tool to help students identify areas of possible improvement regarding SA in their own institution. The final part provides students with concrete tools to advocate for SA within their medical faculty and community. This includes a PowerPoint presentation to raise the issue among students, a letter to the school administration or student organisations aiming to start a discussion, a training for students to build capacity and a social media campaign to reach out to others to get involved.
Now the time has come to disseminate this toolkit all around the world so, please, visit www.ifmsa.org/social-accountability, and be the change in your own medical school.