National Advocacy Conference
Medical students advocate for future of medicine
More than 300 medical students from 29 states headed to Capitol Hill on Monday as part of the AMA’s Medical Student Advocacy Day to talk with their members of Congress about what needs to be done to protect the future of health care in the United States.
The students held 144 meetings with members of Congress and key staffers. The most pressing of the students’ concerns was preserving graduate medical education funding, which is slated for a 2 percent cut under the federal budget sequester. The number of residency slots also has not kept pace with the increase of U.S. medical students or the demand for care, thanks to a cap that was first set in 1997.
“It’s an important issue for the country because we need more doctors,” said Mark Kashtan, a second-year medical student at the Medical College of Wisconsin. “For us [medical students], it’s the rest of our lives. Since we’re the closest people to it, we need to be the most vocal advocates for it.”
Before discussing this and other issues on Capitol Hill, students received a day of training Sunday, including lobbying practice and tips from experts.
“Advocacy Day teaches medical students how to advocate effectively,” said Shannon Brockman, a second-year medical student at the University of Florida College of Medicine. “Students receive instruction on how to talk to congressional aides and on other parts of the lobbying process.”
Since first participating in the event last year, Brockman has been able to build a relationship with her congressman’s office. She hopes the staff will rely on her and other students in the future to better understand some of the critical issues in medicine.
With so many medical students participating in Advocacy Day each year, their efforts leave a lasting impression on Capitol Hill.
“[The event] shows politicians that we care about the future of health care and that we’re willing to fight to ensure that it’s maintained for the betterment of patients,” said Jade Anderson, a second-year medical student at Boston University School of Medicine.
Advocacy Day participants say there are other welcome benefits of the event as well.
“I think most importantly it teaches us about the issues that we should continue to follow, support and share with our classmates,” said Elizabeth Sibrack, a second-year medical student at the East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine.
Ryan Ribiera, a fourth-year medical student at the University of California Davis School of Medicine, appreciates the social aspect of the event. “Advocacy Day lets you become friends with students from around the country,” he said. “It’s another reason I keep coming back after four years.”