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Earlier in my M1 year, I learned about organized medicine and through the last few months, I have engaged in ways to promote positive change in our communities. A few weeks ago, my classmates and I had the opportunity to meet with state senators and representatives to advocate for issues on vaccinations, Graduate Medical Education, the opioid epidemic and many more!

Advocating with my classmates (left to right): Alex Reardon (M1), Kathryn Quanstrom (M1), Lilia Popova (M1), and Phillip Yang (M1)

Eight short months ago, with my white coat in one hand and stethoscope in the other, I began my studies at the University of Michigan Medical School (UMMS) with the dream of becoming a physician. I was excited to learn as much as I could about human anatomy, physiology and pathology, but as the school year progressed, our UMMS curriculum integrated sessions on public health, policy, leadership, quality improvement and other topics designed to help us explore beyond the scientific foundations of medicine. With these sessions, I connected with passionate physicians and upperclassmen who introduced me to organized medicine. Fascinated by the potential to make nationwide improvements on key health-related issues, I joined the American Medical Association (AMA) at the national, state and county levels.

As a current member of the Michigan State Medical Society (MSMS), I had the opportunity to share the medical student voice at the MSMS Medical Student Section Spring Lobby Day. Together with three other UMMS classmates, and around 30 other medical students from schools across the state, we met with key lawmakers in Michigan to advocate for meaningful changes to state policies.

In light of the recent measles outbreak in Michigan, including cases here in Washtenaw County, we advocated for the promotion of vaccinations to protect the public from other preventable diseases, such as pertussis, meningococcal meningitis, and hepatitis A. Specifically, we asked our legislators to increase funding for the I Vaccinate Campaign, which provides parents with information based on medical science and research about the benefits of vaccinations in preventing certain diseases.

Me, moments before meeting with Representative Yousef Rabhi in the Michigan State Capitol!

We also asked our legislators to protect and expand Graduate Medical Education (GME) state funding in Michigan to support physicians training and working in Michigan, especially for those who pursue a career in primary care areas. As a native Michigander who hopes to give back to the communities that have given me so much throughout my childhood, continued support for these programs, including the Michigan State Loan Repayment Program and MiDOCS, is close to my heart.

Additionally, we had many thoughtful discussions with our legislators on ways to address the opioid epidemic in Michigan, opportunities to reform auto insurance to lower rates for drivers, and methods to streamline prior authorization protocols to deliver the highest quality and most immediate care to our patients.

Although spending a single day in Lansing is not nearly enough to direct change on these policies, all the senators and representatives that we met with thanked us for being there and for voicing our perspectives and opinions on these current issues. I hope that as a group of medical students we built onto all the work that the MSMS and physicians before us have done, letting us give our legislators an extra nudge in the right direction.

My involvement with organized medicine the past few months and this most recent trip to meet with legislators has led me to the realization that being a physician encompasses much more than learning the physiology of the body and the pathology of diseases – it requires working with policymakers in order to make widespread improvements to public health. As a first-year medical student, I appreciate being exposed to this side of health care at such an early stage of my career, as it has instilled in me a long-term commitment to learning about the issues and working with policymakers to tackle new challenges that arise.