Role of Medical Students towards Achieving the 2030 Agenda

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Iftekhar Ahmed Sakib, currently studying at Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College, Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

The 2030 Agenda is universal, applying to all countries and actors. Everyone has a role towards achieving it. We often undermine the crucial role medical students can play as future health(care) professionals towards SDGs.

Health workers can see where the health problems are at the coal face. They can draw leaders’ attention to needed prevention efforts and health systems coverage issues that address the problems faced by patients they see every day. They also have a central role to promote health equity. The 2030 Agenda have created an organizational space and capacity, which will enable health workers to effectively engage, work and partner with other sectors towards achieving the SDGs. Medical students, as future health(care) professionals, they should learn these key aspects.

The COVID-19 Pandemic showed how the health workers address issues at the community level (the frontline), champion community health needs, and make services more patient-centred. Health workers are the critical pathway to attaining the health targets in SDG 3, addressing other SDGs as well. The SDGs recognize that interventions in one area will affect outcomes in others. For example, actions to support women empowerment may also catalyse local economies, enable safer childbirth, and build more inclusive communities. Thus in medical life, medical students need to align their steps with SDGs. The indivisible nature of the SDGs means that we cannot ‘cherry-pick’ topics, we must look at the Agenda as an integrated package.

Through simple voluntary actions medical students can make an impact. Challenge is they do not have enough resources or guidelines to make a significant impact. But SDGs themselves teach us to make the best use of our limited resources. By our one campaign if we can impact one life, we are indeed the change makers for tomorrow. Thus while organizing any program, we need to focus on quality over quantity. We need to invest our time on effective planning. The 2030 Agenda stresses that development planning must be risk-informed. For example, while planning any initiative, we need to address the challenges due to COVID-19 Pandemic   So, medical students should keep in mind that development must be smart. If it is not risk-informed, it is not sustainable.

I would like to give an example of an event that I organized in my country. January is marked as Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. So we launched a campaign to advocate against cervical cancer. Our objective was to collect donation to vaccinate underprivileged girls against cervical cancer. Through our 10 day campaign, we fulfilled our commitment towards SDG 3,4,5 and collect a donation of $160 to vaccinate against cervical cancer. Thus no step is a small step. Every step we take matters considering our role as future health service providers.

There is no ‘Plan B’ because we do not have a ‘Planet B.’ Looking ahead to the next 10 years, we can deliver on our shared responsibility to the slogan of SDGs- ‘leave no one behind’. So medical students can not stay behind. Lastly, sharing a quote from the former UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon,

Be a global citizen. Act with passion and compassion. Help us make this world safer and more sustainable today and for the generations that will follow us. That is our moral responsibility.”

About the author

Iftekhar Ahmed Sakib is currently studying at Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College, Dhaka, Bangladesh. In spite of being a medical student, he is a public speaker, writer and mentor. He was awarded ‘The Emerging Young Leader’ by South Asia Partnership-Nepal in 2018. He has attended many esteemed conferences worldwide. He is a proud member of IFMSA and working relentlessly in his NMO BMSS-Bangladesh to create an impact. He has numerous newspaper articles and published renowned magazines. He has served as the Judge of many esteemed MUNs, public speaking competitions, debates, article competitions and so forth. He loves volunteerism, he loves to serve humanity.

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