This is a guest blog by Maria Angela Martinez Gamero and Jessica Valeria Tang Herrera, vice president and alumni coordinator, respectively, of the Asociacion Peruana de Estudiantes de Medicina Humana (APEMH). Maria Angela is also resident at the Family and Community Medicine Hospital in Palamos, Spain. They were members of the Global Health Council Delegation to the World Health Assembly in May 2011.
In the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) we identify with the statement “Think Globally; Act Locally.” While most of us know how to act locally and develop interventions or projects that advance the health and well-being of populations we belong to and care for, we are not sure what we need to think about when requested to “Think Globally.”
In May, we had the good fortune to attend the 64th World Health Assembly (WHA) thanks to the Global Health Council. This was an amazing opportunity for us to experience global health in action and also to try to answer the question above. In the GHC delegation, we met people from different countries. Many came from the USA, but there were delegates from 193 countries at the WHA, the yearly gathering of ministers of health and their senior teams in Geneva.
We enjoyed opportunities to learn from and work with individuals with varying backgrounds. One day we met a delegate from Malaysia and he introduced us to a couple of Peruvian doctors. This couple had been working in the WHO headquarters for many years and for them, it was their 20th WHA! We enjoyed some discussions with them and even a Peruvian homemade meal.
In the WHA plenary, heads of delegations discussed their views on current priorities in health which impact the world, not only their own countries. Later, in the two sub-committees very essential topics where discussed (i.e. HIV/AIDS, WHO budget, Millennium Development Goals, International Health Regulations).
It was such a great experience, yet we asked ourselves: How could other IFMSA members benefit from a similar exposure? And reminded that classes on “global health” or “the United Nations and Health” were never taught to us, we tried to find out what could we could do, as IFMSA alumni, to widen the participation. We began thinking globally!
After living through this intense week, we decided to share this opportunity with young medical doctors who could become future health leaders in their respective countries and globally. We met Dr. Inon Schenker, a former WHO staff member, a leading specialist in HIV prevention and a global health consultant. He shared with us that for the last five years a seminar on global health is held in Geneva every year, with changing groups of participants.
Chemistry was working for us, and we agreed on holding the 2012 Geneva Seminar on Health and Globalization specifically for IFMSA alumni. This would help them acquire the skills and knowledge they need to successfully engage in global health activities and careers. After talking to Swiss Medical Students’ Association (SWIMSA) alumni member Dr. Cindy Bouvet from Switzerland, we decided that this initiative would be coordinated between two IFMSA countries — Peru (APEMH) and Switzerland (SWIMSA).
All these experiences inspired us in so many ways. Our experience in WHA was nothing short of amazing and it has given us a thorough understanding of the internal workings of an international organization like WHO and a unique insight into the formulation of international health policy. So now that we are thinking globally, we are acting locally – and inviting anyone interested to participate in the 2012 Geneva Seminar to write to us (firstname.lastname@example.org). Soon you will find us on Facebook under “Geneva Global Health Seminar.”