Being a med student is hard. You’re forced into a rigorous academic environment, often swamped with debt and entrenched in what can often feel like meaningless busywork. Amid all this difficulty, it is essential that med students not overlook the unique ways to help shape the future of health care policy. Given the proper motivation, med students have numerous opportunities to create health care policies long before graduation.
Why Med Students Should Help Shape Health Care Policy
Getting involved in shaping health care policy benefits the professional development of med students. Furthermore, it will allow them to make a tangible impact even before they earnestly begin patient care. For professional development, students in the medical field gain invaluable experience with the way American health care works under systems like the Affordable Care Act. Pre-med students can also gain a unique professional advantage by strengthening their medical school applications by creating journal articles and other works.
Beyond the professional opportunities this presents, students can voice their opinions to policymakers by working in health care policy fields and publishing reviews and articles on the subject. Something as simple as working with a single policymaker could domino into a significant change in health care policy.
How Med Students Shape Future Health Care Policy
Med students are unique members of the health care community. Unlike doctors, they are not so deeply entrenched in research or patient care that they cannot spend a great deal of time examining the policies in the health care world.
Moreover, med students are new to the health care world. While this means they are inexperienced, it also means that they are examining health care policy with a set of fresh eyes. This fresh input enables them to provide innovative insights to help push health care policy forward.
The medical community is already recognizing how med students can shape future health care policy. According to a study from American Medicine, in 2016, 32 medical schools identified six key areas for medical education innovation. Most interesting among them was the current health systems design and culture. People directly involved in education have already identified that med students have a lot to offer in shaping the policies that create health care systems and their environments.
The health care world wants medical students to engage in shaping health care policy. The only requirement is that students are proactive about getting involved.
The American Medical Association (AMA) is actively seeking to incorporate student voices in health care policies through programs like the Student Advocacy Conference. This program allows students to meet with members of Congress and discuss key issues in health care policy. Such opportunities allow students to voice their concerns and insights for innovating health care policy’s future and improve the medical community’s ability to enhance patient care.
The Best Ways to Get Involved in Health Care Policy as a Student
Internships at the Local, State and International Level
One of the best ways to get involved in shaping health care policy is to jump into an internship that allows you to get hands-on with the health care policy process. You can look for internships at the local level, like working as an EMT or local health departments. At the state level, you can look for internships with Medicaid programs to help you understand how statewide health care policies work. You can also look for opportunities to work in health care policy abroad to experience working with government-level health care policies in countries with less developed health care systems. These internships all let you showcase your experience working in health care policy and give you a valuable opportunity to shape health care systems.
On-campus and Off-campus Academic Involvement and Volunteering
Besides internships, you cannot discount the value of actively involving yourself in campus clubs, publishing opportunities, coursework and volunteering. Getting involved in AMA-sponsored campus clubs can give you valuable leadership experience in groups that shape health care policy. Experts also recommend looking for opportunities to publish your work, take coursework outside the medical school and volunteer in clinics and other outreach to broaden your horizons.
A Parting Reminder
Med students shouldn’t discount the value of their input on the future of healthcare policy. While they might not have the medical expertise to treat patients, they can provide unique insights that can positively impact health care policy by innovating and improving patient care.
Luke Argue is a junior in the government department at Patrick Henry College. Aside from writing, Luke enjoys playing volleyball, reading about foreign affairs, and studying world cultures and religions.