The Perks of being a LORMA

This year ‘Zona Sismica’ magazine,  on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of SISM, decided to run through all the stages that led SISM to the association it is today .

Above all the SCOPE-SCORE area intends to recollect stories, reports and opinions of ex- Outgoings, ex- NEO/NORE, by following  a gathering thread that talks about health and world’s balance changes occurred  during these 45 years  that connect Sismers from the past to present days.

The final purpose is to get new hints to carry out former ideas that are always current : We study history in order to understand the present and to face the future!  

This month I had the pleasure to interview Ivana Di Salvo, attending the sixth year of Medical School in Pavia, she is an ex-Leo Lore, ex-NORE and since last year she joins the Team of Officials of IFMSA, firstly as SCORE Director and now as  Liason Office to Research and Medical Association.

On her way back from the World Health Assembly in Ginevra, extremely busy between her research project in Switzerland and the drawing up of the degree thesis, Ivana managed to allow me a whole hour on Skype to tell us about her incredible ascent to the peak of IFMSA and reveal us her experience.

 

  1. Hello Ivana! First of all I have to admit that I read all your curriculum ( yeah I admit it, I hunted you a little bit ) and the main thing that I want to ask you is : how did you succeed in doing everything ?

 

[laughing] I need to say that it isn’t always all impossible as it seems. I know that at an international grade work may seem trebled, but truly it’s not; in Italy the effort is huge too. To tell the truth I think the NORE job has been heavier than the SCORE Director. The NORE role is to handle a lot with the daily management of any possible problem and you help a lot others too, while when you’re in the Team of Officials of IFMSA you only look after yourself and your area.

Internationally speaking everything  is  easier because you have more people helping you and once you learned how to work things out at a National point doing it at the International one is unusually simpler. For what concerns the LORMA role it is a little bit more complicated because there is a lot of work to do and it is often boring  since you find yourself arguing with professors and foremen of medical societies.

2. Many years have passed since your first approach to SISM, what triggered you to become a member?

 

Before starting Medicine I spent a year in Biotechnology where I met an English girl who studied Marketing; her cousin who studied in London had done a Professional exchange in New York. I entered Medicine two months after having met her, so I was enthusiastic. I immediately searched for SISM  during the Welcome Day. I begun participating to a voluntary service for the people damaged by the flood of Messina and there was a Puppets’ Clinic. Since then I participated to the SCOPH  project on Tobacco Control named HELP and organized by the European Union and while I was helping the LPO I supported the LORE of Messina in the exchange campaign and in the competition. Later that night he told me if I wanted to deal with the exchange area. There would have been elections a month later and I was still at my first year; I was a bit worried but they voted for me and so I started as LORE.

  1.   Have you ever gone on Exchange? If so, where? What is your best memory?

I went on exchange to Barcelona in 2012. It was beautiful, because it was my first and only Exchange. Well: this is a flaw of being a National or International Officer, because there’s never enough time to do something different. I participated in a project of Experimental Cardio-Histopathology. It was great because I spent a lot of time practicing in hospital, with kindly professors that taught me some cardiac surgery and even Spanish during that month. I worked with some engineering doctoral students that were working on a cardiovascular model: they were happy to have students interested in that project. That days I was studying Physiology and practicing and working I improved my knowledge about cardiovascular system. Instead, I’ve enjoyed almost nothing of Barcelona, because I lived in a flat with other nine guys and we always did home parties or watched movies or made tipical dishes nights. I think I went out rarely, but I’m already in touch with my flatmates and we met all in Chile.

  1.   From a “little SISMic” to NORE! Tell us about your experience as NORE. Was it hard or great? Would you repeat this experience?

I did this experience too early, maybe. During my first year in Medicine, I attended a GA and that gave me motivation and enthusiasm. Participating in the project on tobacco, I had already met the Regional Coordinator and other NOREs, in particular the Romanian and the Greek ones; she prompted me to run as NORE. At first, I talked about this with to SISM’s National Boarding during GA, jokingly. Then, it became more serious and I decided to run for NORE. Many people disagreed with my decision, because they sayd it could be better to focus more on my local committee instead of a National experience. With hindsight, I think they were right, even if being LEO or LORE takes many time, because there are so many business to cure with the University and the Professors. I was a bit reckless and rash. But it was not a bad choice, because working as NORE I was in touch with lots of people, I understood that any Local Committee is different to any other and has different problems and was beautiful receiving incitements from different people.

I think doing it again, for the second time, wasn’t a good idea. It’s nice to be a National Officer for a second time, but I think it’s better to let other people do the same experience, because this way can make things better.

  1. How much has the role of NORE changed in the last few years, in your opinion? And what about the development of research projects?

I think that the role of NORE has changed so much in the last few years and I supported these changes because I didn’t want that the NORE dealt just with exchanges, but also with research in general, as conflicts of interest or the Pharm-Free.

On one hand, I think that it’s easier now to get more exchanges and projects as we have reached more visibility and better relationship with the heads of the department and professors. On the other hand I think that planning a research exchange isn’t this simple because a month isn’t a long period for a student and the professors, considering the lack of resources and patners’ availability, prefer to give the opportunity to Italian students first. In Italy research resources are poor and research groups haven’t often appropriate means, or they don’t use them, to search for funds or to promote their own projects. This leads to an internal organization of the groups in which the student has a secondary role. Morever in a medical student’s curriculum it’s not provided to take lessons that could help the student to be prepared to actively and  concretely contribute to a research project. The SCORE could help to promote the interest in scientific research and students’ participation also with a call to professors, Heads of department and academic Deans.

 

  1. Have you ever had problems about the ethical value of a research project?

No I haven’t, because It’ s impossible to know where the funds are from. We wondered about the difficulty of knowing who finances the projects. In Italy this isn’t a big deal as there aren’t many research resources or willing pharmaceutical companies. This problem is intense in other countries, such as Lebanon or in some NMO that aren’t Pharm-free. Even the IFMSA isn’t exactly Pharm-free; there is a document about ethical finance but there aren’t rules that forbid to take money from pharmaceutical companies. Everybody comply with this value but there isn’t a rule. Another issue was about the fees for the students that want to participate to scientific conventions or conferences that are financed by pharmaceutical companies. We haven’t found a solution yet. Unfortunately I think that this problem will remain forever, it’s like a chinese box, when you open one of it, there’s always another one inside.

7. You are the person in charge of relationships with medical associations and research institutions. It sounds cool, but maybe we don’t actually know what you do. What are the situations that you have to face? And how much do you contribute in our local committee?

My role is to keep in contact the IFMSA and the research institutes and medical associations, in particular the ones with whom we have a partnership or closer relationships. Lately, we have further developed the relationship with WONCA (Society of general practice), FIGO (International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics), WFN (World Federation of Neurology), ICS (International College of Surgeons), WPA (World Psychiatric Association), ISFTeH (International Society for Telemedicine and eHealth) and many others. Usually, the decision to start a new partnership is based on the necessities of students and on the activities organized; for example, we decided to start a partnership with FIGO because SCORA organises some high-impact projects and this association can help us with advocacy strategies. By engaging associations of specialists we involve doctors at a national level creating partnerships between them and the students and this allows us to receive help and support for them and it also gives us the chance to participate to their congresses. It’s a great opportunity because we can show our projects at an international level and this gives the students and the standing committees greater visibility.

 

  1. It often happens to meet colleagues that don’t get involved in SISM because they have no time to waste! Have you ever thought that you wasted your time?

I think that during the course of one’s studies it’s important to make room to anything: study is important because you won’t acquire it in the future but you should open up to any type of activity that interests you. I never thought that I wasted my time, maybe I didn’t use it well, because I might have given too much importance to an event or a meeting and I neglected traineeships and studying. Also, the inadequate organization of traineeships made the time spent in the ward uninteresting, compared to the IFMSA projects, which were much more stimulating. Nonetheless, I made up for it with a research project in senology during the 4th year and a traineeship-full 5th year when I was on erasmus in Marseille. Those who approach SISM do it because they’re looking for something that is related to medicine but, at the same time, can give you a different perspective of medicine. I don’t have regrets, because if I’d go back I would have chosen the same path. IFMSA and SISM changed the way I engage with the world, they taught me how to manage difficult and unpleasant situations, to accept new challenges and always be positive. I visited about 30 countries, I worked with students from all over the world and I built friendships that will last all my life. I travelled, not only moving from country to country, but also interiorly.

 

  1. What would you say to Jole and to future NOREs? And what would you say to a medical student who has just entered the SISMic world?

To Jole and the future NOREs I would say to try and promote as much as they can the research exchanges in Italy, to organize the research WORKSHOP and also the RESEARCH DAY. I would also tell them to never lose the human side of our role, which is what most unites us.

To a medical student I would say that books are important, but SISM allows you to have experiences that make you grow on a personal level and this is something that your university doesn’t provide you with. Often though, a person that is very active in SISM is not able to take his/her own experiences inside the university world and, in the same way, national officers lose contact with their local committee. For this reason I invite you to not forget these aspects and to reconcile these two things to improve the course of your studies.

 

Caterina Pelligra