Hundreds of students from faraway countries and acclaimed scholars will meet each other this week at UMCG for one of the world’s leading medical student conferences.
The first thing Maria Moina, 22, from Santiago de Chile did when she arrived in Groningen was to buy a bicycle. The whole town discovered it, until the thing was stolen on the third day. “Not really a great experience, but I’ve heard it happens to everyone in the Netherlands at some point,” Moina says. “So far I don’t mind so much.” She now has a new one.
For the Chilean physiotherapy student, this is her first time traveling alone and all the way to Europe. Moena fits perfectly into the target group that ISCOMS (International Student Conference for Medical (Bio)) focuses on: medical students (Bachelor to PhD) from countries where there are no opportunities to take it. The conference started on Monday and will continue through Friday and will attract about 550 medical students and researchers from 70 different countries to the UMCG.
Nobody feels lonely
“Most of them come here on their own,” says Stephanie Braunos, ISCOMS board member. “But you see, no one feels lonely, because they quickly grow together.” The evening program (from pub quizzes to salsa dancing) will help with this, but in the end everyone is here mainly for the thematic part of the conference. There are many workshops and lectures in which students and researchers present their work. Highlights Keynote lectures Written by, among others, flight doctor Maybret Kuipers and American professor Robert Langer, co-founder of, among others, Corona Moderna’s vaccine giant and one of the most cited scientists in the world.
ISCOMS says it is not very difficult to attract internationally acclaimed scientists to Groningen president Juliet Baker. “Our conference has a very good reputation in the world,” says Packer. “We are a non-profit organization and so we cannot offer them a business class ticket, but they still come and often even at their own expense.” I’ve already dedicated Nobel Prize winner Brian Kobilka from Stanford to next year. Packer: “You have to start very early, because these guys have a whole agenda.”
Full functional benefits
Groningen GP Eric Marsing is very proud of what ISCOMS has become. As a medical student, he founded the conference in 1993 with fellow student Kees Polstra. “It’s become a lot bigger and more global,” says Marsing. “This is great, of course. Here, students from all over the world become excited about research and international contacts are made that will benefit them throughout their careers.”
For 21 participants, a visit to Groningen will get another tailgating. They have been selected on the basis of their research to do part of the study at UMCG. In this way, ISCOMS wants to connect scientific talents with Groningen and at the same time offer young people from countries with less opportunities the opportunity to develop further.
Maria Moina from Chile has other plans. “I will buy a train ticket to travel around the Netherlands and I also want to see Paris or Berlin,” says Moina. “I really won’t be getting close again anytime soon.”
“Lifelong zombie fanatic. Hardcore web practitioner. Thinker. Music expert. Unapologetic pop culture scholar.”