Reaching out to Members – Celebrating the AECS 140th Anniversary, Barcelona, Catalonia

The heart of the IFMSA is our members and our National Member Organizations (NMOs). Currently 108 NMOs are part of the IFMSA uniting medical students from around the world making the IFMSA a place of great diversity and immense collaboration. The IFMSA grows together with its participating associations and members, therefore making an anniversary celebration of one of our Member Organizations is not just a festivity for one our members, but for the whole federation.

AECS Catalonia

This first May weekend marked the 140th Anniversary celebration of one of the IFMSA’s oldest NMOs – L’ Associació d’Estudiants de Ciències de la Salut (AECS Catalonia). Being an organization that started off nearly 7 generations ago, and which is more than twice as old as the IFMSA sparks many memories and gives plenty of chances to look back on the many challenges overcome and the milestones achieved.

Some of the highlights…

AECS Catalonia provided the chance to meet the AECS President of 1956, Dr. Alvar Net, now the President of the Academy of Health Sciences in Catalonia. While Dr. Net shared the stories and photos of another time, the same spirit of discovery, knowledge, and facing challenges is still that of what resonates in the hearts and minds of medical students in the past and today.

Dr. Net described the difficulties that had to be faced in the early
beginnings of international professional exchanges – not only were there major challenges with communication, which in today’s internet-age are unthinkable. Additionally, there  were political obstacles that had to be overcome during the period of the Franco regime in Spain. Not only were student organizations observed for their activities, but there was fear of the exchange of ideas that could take place with international collaborations. Dr. Net explains that back then, it was rare to leave the country and it was considered a privilege to own a passport. Medical students preparing to leave the country had to be aware of possibly being under observation  by the Government. – Still, despite the challenges that were posed, medical students engaged in international activities, overcoming all stones that were put in the way.

Challenges of the 21st century

While in most countries today, active students are encouraged and supported to participate in global exchange of ideas, knowledge and collaborations, there are still obstacles challenging many students to attend general assemblies–the financial constraints and the political hurdles–closed borders is some place are barriers that need to be addressed. Globalization and technology is addressing some of these gaps, by making the world feel much more tangible to all members of the globe.  Another changing dimension it that health issues and threats have reached alarming levels, making it is necessary that medical students go beyond the classic field of medical studies to integrate societal dimensions into the education and skills they acquire.

AECS National GA (Reus, South of Catalonia)

Despite an ever changing world, the spirit however remains the same – crossing physical and cultural borders to improve healthcare and delivery worldwide. In this spirit AECS Catalonia through Pep Iglesies, current President, invited the IFMSA to attend it’s 140th anniversary. Attended by Christopher Pleyer, the IFMSA President and Roopa Dhatt, IFMSA Vice President for External Affairs, AECS Catalonia demonstrated hospitality and companionship at its best:

Dali's HoseWalking Distance from the AECS flat


-touring of the Barcelona/Catalonia Region

-Enjoying catalan food and culture

– hosting us at their housing in the AECS flat, which is used for hosting international exchange students (100s of exchanges, as AECS has a leading exchange program in IFMSA)

-full access and integration into all AECS activities surrounding the 140th anniversary, including having the chance to VISION Build:

Additionally, Alumni continue to play a central role in AECS–offering both inspiration and guidance. There was the unique opportunity to meet with older AECS and IFMSA Alumni, as well ex-official Dr. Mireia Villarubia Garcia Munoz. LO Public Health of 2007/2008. The shared stories of the challenges the faced in beginning some of the most early projects in AECS–including the Teddy Bear Hospital. They encouraged members of the great potential that exists in building skills, exchanging ideas, breaking barriers, dreaming beyond clinical medicine, and even hosting international events, such as the EuRegMe and General Assembly.

IFMSA’s 44th General Assembly, was held in Barcelona, was the largest IFMSA meeting
ever, as far as the records show. It was the G.A. that Canada, Mexico, Malta, Armenia, Tatarstan and South Africa became member of the federation. More than 320 medical students from 51 countries all over the world gathered in the spirit of IFMSA.

However, there is the hope that was echoed both by Dr. Net and Dr. Munoz about the hope to once again be voting members in IFMSA, something which was lost in time with the expansion of the federation and constitutional changes that took place since the founding year and the hope to host again an international IFMSA General Assembly.

Continuing the Legacy

With the combined history of 61 Years of IFMSA history and the history of all national member organizations IFMSA, the future outlook as is promising as never before! Time will show – the next anniversary is around the corner for IFMSA and our NMOs.

Yours Truly,

Christopher Pleyer, IFMSA President 2011/12

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