A Zimbabwean medical student was recently elected to head Africa’s Directorate for the International Federation of Medical Students Associations(IFMSA) following a tight contest in Taiwan.
By Kudakwashe Pembere
Allistair Mukondiwa pursuing a medical degree with the University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences in an interview said he was happy to be the first Zimbabwean to lead African region’s medical students.
Honestly, Im both nervous and excited; nervous because I know how much of a big responsibility it is to grow the voice of medical students in global health and excited because we can actually do it.
“We can actually build an Africa with medical students who are globally significant yet locally relevant in their communities, the future is ours for the taking,” he said.
He said it was about time the narrative among African medical students changed. Mukondiwa said he hopes the work that medical students in Zimbabwe, in Africa have been doing. He said this was call to action to all students to adopt a stance that meaningfully involves the youth in global health discussions even in our country.
“Zimbabwe should be blazing the trail in modern global health as it did with the AIDS levy, palliative care and all,” Mukondiwa said.
Mukondiwa added that he felt the election campaign period not as a competition.
“The Region is full of capable hands that could serve them with amazing dexterity so to me, the campaign period was never a competition.
“It was a time to grow our vision for Africa, interrogate our ideas and establish the necessary relationships to effectively cater for everyone’s dreams and needs.
“It was full of setbacks but all those setbacks united us more, now that we are starting to implement the mandate, we are all playing our part to ensure that the medical students of Africa realize their fullest potential and purpose as future healthcare leaders,” he said.
Describing the contest which was held in, Taiwan he said it was a tight race and he only emerged a victor by the grace of God.
“We were two candidates; we both failed to obtain majority of the votes with me getting a vote less than my amazing colleague. We then went through a second selection for an interim Regional Director in which we were initially 5 candidates and that is when I was finally selected RD Africa ad interim,” Mukondiwa said.
Just like the principle of Universal Health Coverage dubbed, “Leaving No One Behind”, while campaigning, Mukondiwa was in the same mode.
“ I ran under the mantra ‘Leaving No-one Behind’, which is a principle that has been ingrained in us in the Zimbabwean health sector; my team and I are going to be pursuing establishing a vibrant, inclusive and united African region.
“We are going to be strengthening medical student led projects in the region in six sectors, namely: Public Health, Medical Education, Professional and Research Exchange, Human Rights and Peace and finally, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (including HIV/AIDS).
“We want to participate more in making Africa a healthcare leader for the world and ensure that we are ready as a region for disasters such Ebola or Cyclone Idai,” he said.
Mukondiwa takes over from Dr Parth Patel from Malawi.
IFMSA is divided in five regions – Africa, Americas, Asia-Pacific, Eastern Mediterranean and Europe. Regions were created more than ten years ago to make it easier for members to tackle similar issues on the regional level. It also facilitates the process of recruiting new members and it actively supports transnational participation through subregional trainings and regional meetings – the biggest regional event of the year. More recently, IFMSA has increased its efforts in external representation, by teaming up with regional offices of the WHO and other regional organizations.
Each region is led by a Regional Director, who is elected by the members of the respective region and who works with regional assistants of the different standing committees and a capacity building assistant.
“The regional directors also support the development of member organisations on their national level. This structure helps to maximise the representativeness of the members and diversity of cultures within IFMSA international working platform,” says IFMSA on its website.