AAMC National Conference 2013

Every year, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC – aka the organization you took your MCAT’s through, submitted your AMCAS through, and that you will be submitting your ERAS through, as well as the organization that co-sponsors the LCME accreditation body for US medical schools) hosts a national meeting where faculty, staff, and students can all come and listen to various talks about the current state of the medical field.  Topics covered in recent years often include updates on the health care reform and advocacy from the AAMC, the state of medicine today and where it’s projected to go in the future, humanism in medicine, and various breakout sessions such as changes to the MCAT, NBME updates, and the SOAP (which was a big thing last year).

This year, the meeting was held in Philadelphia, PA on Nov 1-6.  As an Organization of Student Representative (OSR) rep for our school (basically the student branch of the AAMC), I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the conference with two of my fellow students – one each from the class above and below me.  If you’re interested, here’s a page where you can see the President’s address, the Chair’s address, and other sessions that were recorded at the meeting (you may need to sign in): https://www.aamc.org/meetings/annual/am2013/  In case the video links don’t work, here’s the transcript of the President’s address: https://www.aamc.org/download/359798/data/aamcpresidentsaddress2013.pdf

One thing at this conference that really moved people was a session titled “The Case of Dr. M. Smith: Creating a Climate of Civility,” put on by the Center for the Application and Scholarship of Theater (CAST) in Medicine.  I thought the way they delivered their message was quite novel – instead of a staid lecture on professionalism or top-down discussion of what needs to change in the “culture of medicine, they chose instead to use theater to express how the system pushes people to become someone they perhaps did not want to be just in order to survive.  The story depicted the life of a medical student from the first day of med school until the 3rd year of residency in 15 minutes.  It was split into different sections, with discussions between each about the stressors and hidden curriculum in the training process to become a medical doctor.  Interestingly enough, as they said, every time they perform, both students and faculty alike identified with the characters portrayed, showing that despite advances/a move back towards a more personable culture of medicine, there is still a ways to go to put that into practice in one’s training.

The really great thing about being an OSR rep is to be able to hear both what is going on in other medical schools around the country by talking with representatives from other schools, as well as learning more about the intricacies of what our own school does through conversations with people like our Student Affairs Dean, Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education, Medical Student Services staff, and the Dean of the Medical school.  And of course, our very own MSTP director.

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Please excuse the random knee bending – the photographer told me to bend down to avoid blocking people and told Katie to come in closer… I also assumed our legs would be cut off in the picture… clearly we were wrong on all counts. Hah.

Just to give a brief snapshot of conversations and topics covered: how LC’s are done at other schools (successfully) and the fact that our school is planning to revamp the whole system in a much more structured way (which I think will help a LOT), changing of ICM, learning about different schools’ curriculum (and how there seems to be a move towards shortening the preclinical years to 15 or 18 months in order to help students get out quicker/have less debt… apparently because of the timing, one school even mentioned how they take Step 1 after their first clinical year and that some even take Step 2 before Step 1!  The room burst out in chaos for about 5 minutes after that announcement, haha.)  Also interesting at these conferences is in seeing the questions other schools bring up about how to do or address certain problems – it really made us UAB reps appreciate the fact that our school’s curriculum and resources are actually pretty well-designed compared to many others.

As for fun things that happened on this trip – we did take a little detour one day to visit the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, along with the Baylor reps one day:

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I also went to check out the American Physician Scientist Association (APSA) regional conference that was happening that same weekend for a couple hours, and later on in the weekend,  I was also able to briefly meet one of our MSTP alumni, Louisa Pyle, who is now in residency at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia!  We went to Terminal Reading Market (I think it’s near where the old Reading Railroad of Monopoly fame was!), which is a ginormous farmer’s market with crazy stuff!  There was even a place where you could buy chocolates in the shape of organs for your loved ones:

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And, because I am a slight foodie, I have to put in some of the food shots:

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My first official Philly Cheesesteak!

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All and all, a rather jam-packed trip, but informative and engaging all the same.  If you are at all interested in medical policy, education, communication, advocacy, or just learning more about how medical school works as a whole, I would highly recommend that you apply to be an OSR rep for whatever medical school you’re at (if there is such a process at your school), because you really do learn a lot.

Until next time!

-EM

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