|Harbor Family Medicine heads to Kansas City!|
Only one thing can beat that, and that’s having the chance to meet dozens of enthusiastic, engaging medical students from all over the country ready to take on health care and transform family medicine.
Even while we physicians and residents grumble and lament over a crumbling health care system, inefficiencies, inequalities and stagnation in health and medicine, medical students can reignite our idealism and passions for change. Below is an account I wrote from last year’s AAFP Resident and Student Conference that details just what I mean. I’m happy to finally have the chance to share it!
Every year medical schools around the world graduate young physicians eager to continue the beautiful struggle. It is a pleasure to watch them work and to work with them. We owe it to them to help keep their (and our) dreams alive.
Title: The future of Family Medicine is bright, I gotta wear dark-rimmed glasses
Subtitle: Report from the AAFP Resident and Student National Conference, Kansas City, MO 8/2 – 8/5/06
I’ve been known shine about the joys of working with med students. After all, I was one for 4 years and worked exclusively with them for 5, now going on 6. What is it about working with med students? Why is it SO darn fun? Maybe it’s their energy, their idealism, their readiness to take action and make change as we as docs struggle to keep from melting away.
Well, I went on and on and on about this all weekend at the AAFP Resident and Student Conference. How could I not? We’d been chatting it up with only the most stellar med students and soon-to-be family docs out there, and to Jose and Linda, my dear fellow resident recruiters, it became quickly apparent that I had had my share of acquaintances there at the conference, thanks to AMSA. I was being recognized somehow. Few times by face – maybe a talk I’d given at their school. A lecture I’d hosted. More often it was the email address that gave me away.
We had reached a lull on Friday afternoon in the exhibit hall and the Harbor crew was chatting it up about all potentials we’d met when from around the corner and at high speeds comes zipping Justin from Vermont. He’s hard to miss: Stylish and slender even in his V-neck undershirt (the kind I could only get away with wearing, well, as an undershirt or when paired with black dress socks and Ray-Bans, a la Tom Cruise in Risky Business). His scruff and dark-rimmed glasses reminiscent of Elvis Costello though he really doesn’t look a thing like Elvis Costello but name someone with dark-rimmed glasses who doesn’t recall Elvis Costello. Physical attributes aside, what draws one to Justin is his energy: pure, creative, and infectious. With the speed at which he approximated our booth, I knew he was up to something – something big – and that I was in for trouble…
“Hey, Casey” he greeted me, grinning, and we exchanged a hearty soul grip and the guy’s guy half-hug. “Dude, do you know anything about these resolutions?” Not knowing the AAFP political process a lick, I didn’t. Yup, Justin was up to something…again. “Dude,” I cautioned, “what are you up to?” I grinned back. Whatever Justin was up to, I knew I wanted to be a part. Of course, he had decided that for me already. “Dude, check it out.” He handed me 2 sheets of paper. I noticed my name etched in xerox. I didn’t recall putting my name on anything. “I wrote these two resolutions and introduced them this morning.” I was in for it. “They need a resident sponsor to get into the resident congress. I didn’t think you’d mind. You don’t right?”
Of course I didn’t mind. Actually, Justin had read my mind from the night earlier. On flipping through the conference schedule when we arrived, I noted the Resident and Student Congresses. I had missed the session on writing and introducing resolutions but I recalled it from last year when our own Harbor graduate Dr. Fred Kim made AAFP news in his testimony supporting a closer eye on and narrower practices of drug reps and residents in academic medical centers. I gave brief thought to standing on Fred’s mighty shoulders and continuing the fight against Big Pharma…but I was tired. I was there to talk with prospectives, give my support to Harbor and to Family Medicine, not to stir up AAFP like I had in my AMSA days. This wasn’t AMSA, after all. I as in unfamiliar territory. I was an unknown and the last thing I intended was to get caught up in it, tarnish the good Harbor name, and wear myself out on the back & forth of the Big Pharma debate.
Justin had cut straight through the B.S. that I had piled high up around me, and the spark of action had been set. I thanked my friend: “Justin, dude, you are the MAN!
(for some reason, perhaps his laid-back style, his Vermont-cum-Southern Cal vernacular, I’m compelled to say “Dude” around Justin more than usual. Go figure.)
I can’t believe you pulled this off.” He had been out checking the KC music scene late the night before and at some point he’d drafted and printed these two great resolutions, one encouraging alternatives to accepting drug company free samples as the solution to our patients’ need for meds, and a second to restrict access of drug reps and their marketing practices at academic medical centers, including residencies and medical schools. 2 great approaches to limit the influence of biased marketing practices and advertising on patient care. 2 great stances, I agreed, the Academy could support to ensure excellence and integrity in medical education and practice. I chuckled and glanced at Justin again. “Dude, I’m so in.” I didn’t need to read the resolutions to know I supported them and that I’d speak out for them. Justin had done the tough part: he pushed himself, put pen to paper and started the machine. My standing up and speaking was the easy part. “Where, Justin? When?” The kid was on top of it. Me, I could hardly remember being booted from the exhibit hall later that day. “Dude, no sweat. I’ll give you a call with all the info. But check it, I gotta run and get these out.” From his bundle of papers peeked a stack of green half-sheets. “Dude, what are those?” “No, check it out. Surveys.” Not to be outdone by his own butt-kicking activism, he had managed to produce a 5 question survey on what policies the 200+ residencies in attendance had on residents interacting with drug reps. The kid was en fuego. He handed me a survey, said “Dude, Ill call you in a few” and sped off down the carpeted aisle, distributing surveys, a dust cloud at his heels.
Well, Justin’s hard work came through. We pulled it off and as a result the Resident and Student Congresses of the AAFP voiced strong policies against the relentless marketing influences of Big Pharma.
It might have been my name that made it onto the website, but it was a medical student’s drive and focus that put me there.