Medical Student Advocacy
Hiva (Sungyoung) Lee, MD Candidate Class of 2023, American University of the Caribbean
When I decided to pursue a career in anesthesiology, I thoroughly investigated both the pros and cons of the field. It was disheartening to imagine achieving my dream of becoming an anesthesiologist, only to discover that legislative challenges had drastically changed the field as we know it. Advocacy immediately became a priority for me, and I reached out to my ASA State Component Society to get involved. Some state organizations offer scholarships to residents and medical students interested in advocacy, and after expressing my interest, I was awarded a scholarship to cover the cost of attending the ASA Legislative Conference. I recognized that it was not traditional for medical students to attend this annual conference, but if physicians-in-training do not advocate for their own futures, who will?
If there was a picture in the dictionary depicting the phrase “impostor syndrome”, it would be me on the first day of the conference. It was intimidating to be surrounded by physician leaders in anesthesiology, individuals I aspired to be like someday. What was I doing? Who cares what a medical student thinks? I was pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome I received after disclosing that I was “just a medical student”. The conference attendees encouraged me to voice my thoughts and opinions. They shared insight into the issues impacting their practices and genuinely thanked me for getting involved.
The conference offered a variety of learning opportunities, including talks by renowned speakers such as Tevi Troy, PhD, best-selling author and presidential historian, as well as meetings with legislators, often arranged by the respective state components. I personally met with a staff member from Congressman Brian Mast’s office of Florida’s 18th District. We discussed several of the key issues surrounding current anesthesia legislation including the implementation of the No Surprises Act, deferment of student loan interest during residency training, the decreasing Medicare reimbursement rates, and physician-led care at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The outstanding speakers increased my depth of knowledge regarding the legislation surrounding anesthesiology. You might expect that I would be discouraged after several days discussing the challenges facing the field, but my experience was quite the opposite. I left the conference feeling rejuvenated and more motivated than ever to become the best patient advocate and physician leader.
There are many ways to become involved in advocacy efforts. Attending the ASA Legislative Conference is only one of them. Here are some suggestions to get started:
- Follow the official ASA social media pages (@ASALifeline, @ASAGrassrootsNetwork). They often share helpful information regarding current issues and how you can get involved.
- Reach out to your ASA State Component Society to express interest in advocacy, as they may offer opportunities outside of the annual conference.
- Encourage your peers to become educated on pertinent topics in the field, both directly and through social media.
To any medical student considering becoming involved in advocacy efforts, you are not “just a medical student”. We are future physicians and healthcare leaders, and our care for patients extends beyond the operating room. I hope you will join me in taking the future of anesthesiology into our own hands!
Posted June 2022