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Parliamentary Procedure and Other Lessons Learned at the AMA’s Annual Meeting

This weekend, June 6th-8th, instead of studying for the Infectious Disease/Microbiology quiz, I opted to go the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Annual meeting in Chicago as U of M’s representative.

I joined our chapter of the AMA in January with the goal of creating and influencing policy to protect the health of our patients, learning more about how to effectively advocate for patients as a future physician, and, of course, getting that sweet, sweet weekly copy of JAMA. Since joining, I’ve participated in social media campaigns in support of specific legislation, directly lobbied lawmakers on behalf of patients, and helped write a resolution advising the Michigan State Medical Society to take a stand against gun ownership for people convicted of intimate partner violence. Organized medicine has proven to be an awesome experience. Until this weekend, though, I hadn’t taken part in one of the key activities of medical student AMA membership – the Annual Meeting of the Medical Student Section (MSS) Assembly.

I took the train to Chicago and got in late Thursday night. After an early breakfast on Friday, I got my credentials (a piece of yellow paper with UMMS written on it) that indicated I was a voting member of the MSS assembly. I didn’t realize how heavily these types of assemblies rely on Parliamentary Procedure (or Parli Pro, as self-proclaimed Parli Pro nerds call it) to keep things moving. The whole scene of the first session was one of ceremony and formality that I didn’t expect – a blur of motioning, seconding, and objecting to the various resolutions that medical students from across the country had submitted to be debated and adopted (or rejected) as AMA-MSS policy. Resolutions are proposals that ask the AMA to take a specific political position or to initiate an action. If a resolution passes with a majority of votes in the MSS, it can then go on to the full AMA Physician section to be adopted (or rejected) as the official stance of the AMA.

After the first session, we split in to smaller regional meetings. These regional meetings have a very ‘The War Room’-esque feel about them. In our region, medical students from Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky tried to reach a consensus on a wide range of resolutions that would be coming up for a vote in the afternoon and strategized about the best way to get resolutions authored by our students passed by the majority. After an hour and a half of deliberation, we broke for lunch and the afternoon session.

During the large assembly gatherings, if anyone in the room feels strongly about a resolution, they are encouraged to find a microphone and make their case to the group for passing or rejecting (or reaffirming or referring for study or tabling, etc., refer to paragraph 2’s comments on Parli Pro) it. I’m not a big fan of public speaking even to just our Leadership small groups, let alone hundreds of medical students at once. However, there were two resolutions that came up that would seek to expand the AMA’s efforts around ensuring patient safety and well-being throughout their recovery from opioid use disorder (OUD). This is a personal and academic interest of mine, and I didn’t want to miss my chance to inform my colleagues; decision about the policies. I nervously went to the mic and urged the Assembly to bear in mind the social and economic determinants that our patients with OUD and other addictions face, and to recognize that we should bring the resources of the AMA to bear on those problems where we can.

I’m not sure how much of an effect a single testimony like that actually had on people’s votes, but I was proud to stand up for vulnerable patients in that moment. Moments like that are why I joined the AMA in the first place. I’m on the train back to Ann Arbor while I write this, and I still need to take that Infectious Disease quiz. But I’m glad I didn’t miss a weekend full of learning, networking, and advocacy.

Staying Organized in Medical School

Medical school is complicated, and it can be easy to get lost in the process. Just three objects make my world a little easier to manage.

Paper Planner: I am a pen-to-paper gal, so I use a planner to keep myself organized. I divide each day into three sections: academics, wellness and other. For academics, I include the number of lectures I need to study, required activities, pre-work reminders and assignments. I try to keep this section less cluttered by using my phone for referencing the school class/activity calendar. My wellness section often includes yoga class times, personal training goals, and the occasional reunion with friends who are not in medical school. My other section is full of tasks such as folding laundry, preparing lunch for the next day, attending events at Michigan Medicine, and practicing for Biorhythms, a student-run dance organization at UMMS. I plan as far ahead in advance as possible to (1) maximize my study time, and (2) maintain professional and personal relationships.

A snapshot of one of the pages in my First Aid book and my new planner for the clinical trunk year.

First Aid for the USMLE Step 1: I use the First Aid (FA) text to complement my weekly sequence learning. This book was written to help students condense preclinical information into more than 650 pages of must-know concepts. Fortunately, FA was provided to incoming first-year medical students a couple of months into the first year. I wish I had received it sooner though because it helps me stay focused on retaining the most high-yield information. In addition, each sequence is taught by different instructors with their own style and determination of what is and is not significant to learn in the first year. As a result, FA complements what may or may not be included in classroom learning. I hole-punched the text at a local print shop to put it in a binder. Not all the information I need to know for the USMLE Step 1 exam is provided in the book, so I needed the space to include my notes from lectures and small groups. Some organization and preparation now will help me be as ready as possible for the USMLE Step 1 study period after my second year.

Tablet: Throughout my undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan, I used paper for all of my note-taking. Like I mentioned before, I use a planner to stay organized. I did not think I would like using a tablet for studying purposes, so I started medical school by printing out the lecture slides and writing directly on them as I had always done before. What I quickly realized was that (1) I was not helping the environment by printing so much, (2) I did not have the space to hold all those notes, and (3) I would spend as much money printing and purchasing ink throughout the year as I would investing in some convenient technology. On my iPad, I keep all the slides in dividers and subjects in an application called Notability, so I never leave notes at home! I can also easily transport my iPad to and from school, which makes room in my backpack for my binder of the First Aid book discussed previously. I chose the iPad because I determined that it was the best way for me to study efficiently. However, there is no specific technology that is mandatory for students to have or use. The UMMS Financial Aid Office is also available to help students finance educational items…such as a tablet!

Spending 30 minutes updating my planner every week, consistently devoting a few hours every Saturday to adding information to my First Aid book, and regularly charging my tablet has made the transition to medical school just a tad less difficult. Every person is different, so when you matriculate as a medical student, spend some time adjusting to the pace of school and finding ways that work for you to stay organized.