AMSA On Call
  • Pre-Med Checklist from Kaplan MCAT Experts

    Medical school admissions are extremely competitive: more people are taking the MCAT and applying to medical school than ever before. How can you stand out in the crowd and gain a competitive edge over your competition?

    Looking ahead is the best first step on your path to MCAT and medical school victory. Our Kaplan MCAT experts have created a checklist to ensure you make the most of the 2014-2015 school year.

    __ Get involved in your local AMSA chapter!
    __ Meet with a pre-med advisor to obtain information to assist you in the application process
    __ Explore the differences between allopathic (MD) and osteopathic (DO) medical schools
    __ Obtain information from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM)
    __ Look through the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR) and College Information Book (CIB) to get an overview of possible schools to apply to
    __ Evaluate the medical schools and develop your initial list of schools.
    __ Create a schedule of deadlines, including test registration dates, application deadlines (you’ll have primary and secondary application deadlines) and financial aid deadlines
    __ Take a free practice MCAT with Kaplan and/or enroll in a Kaplan MCAT class to get a higher MCAT score

    For additional information on Kaplan MCAT programs and materials, please visit us at or call us at 1-800-KAP-TEST. You can also get more information by becoming our fan on Facebook or by following us on Twitter.

    Thanks for reading, and good luck on your path to medical school and beyond!

    -The Kaplan MCAT Team

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  • To save lives and money, choose single-payer health care

    By Morolake Amole

    The problem with health care in the United States is not that we suffer from inadequate medical resources. Quite the contrary.

    We have thousands of highly skilled and dedicated doctors and nurses. We have many top-notch hospitals possessing state-of-the-art equipment and medications. We have significant patient protection laws.

    So then how do we explain our country’s poor health outcomes, e.g. that we ranked 19th out of 19 wealthy nations in 2010 on preventing deaths that could have been avoided with medical care?

    Here’s a clue: If you compare the U.S. system with those of other industrialized nations, you’ll see that no other country relies so heavily on multiple private insurance plans and has such high financial barriers to care.

    Does the Affordable Care Act change this picture? The ACA will, within a few years, increase coverage for about 20 million people through a combination of subsidies for private insurance and an expansion of the Medicaid program (in those states that have agreed to accept it). This increased coverage will likely save many thousands of lives each year.

    Yet even when the ACA is fully implemented, 30 million Americans will remain uninsured. Some won’t be able afford a private plan. A recent survey by Kaiser Family Foundation found that 36 percent of Americans between the ages of 18-64 who remain uninsured stated that they opted out of buying insurance because the plans available were too expensive.

    Many million more will remain “under-insured,” i.e. vulnerable to severe financial stress if they get sick because they’re enrolled in skimpy health plans with high deductibles and co-pays.

    The U.S. health care system is the most expensive in the world. In 2012, our nation spent roughly $2.8 trillion on health care, about $8,508 per person. Yet the ACA has no proven ways to control costs.

    So, if the Affordable Care Act is not the final answer, what is?

    Many physicians and economists believe that the answer lies in the adoption of a single-payer system. Such a system has already proven successful in Canada, where most care is taxpayer financed but delivered by private doctors and hospitals. One could cite a dozen other examples, from Norway to Taiwan.

    Citizens of these nations enjoy high-quality health care, with outcomes that are generally as good as or better than ours – at much lower cost. They’re successful for a variety of reasons.

    By establishing a payment system in which citizens pay taxes that are then designated toward health care, there’s an implied idea of transparency in health care spending. Citizens can see how their money is being spent.

    Their systems have very low administrative costs, allowing them to spend more resources on providing actual health care. Single-payer systems are also better at controlling costs. They can buy drugs and medical supplies in bulk, and efficiently plan big capital outlays.

    Nonprofit single-payer systems take away the power of private insurance companies to come between patients and their doctors. Patients no longer have to look to insurance agents for decisions on health matters, and patients can choose to go to whatever doctor or hospital they want.

    And because patients are able to obtain primary care and receive treatment for problems at an earlier stage, they require fewer costly interventions later.

    With a single-payer system in the U.S., physicians would be able to concentrate much more on what they were trained to do, and be less burdened with time-consuming and costly insurance paperwork. They’d remain well-compensated (e.g. Canada’s physicians have incomes comparable to their U.S. counterparts, especially when you factor in how little they have to lay out in overhead and malpractice), but primary care physicians would see their incomes rise, reflecting the crucial role they play.

    The most important reason for enacting a single-payer national health insurance program, or an “improved Medicare for all,” is that it would achieve the goal of giving everyone equitable access to all medically necessary care. Health care would be re-routed toward its original goal of giving people an improved quality of life.

    We should implement a nonprofit single-payer system without delay.

    Morolake Amole is a clinical medical student at Meharry Medical College in Nashville.

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  • Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Student Wellness Program

    By Tracy Lee, OMS II
    A.T. Still University-SOMA
    Wellness Coordinator
    AMSA Trainee Wellness and Professionalism Committee

    Welcome to Wellness Wednesdays!

    We will have a blog post every other week. The blog post at the first of the month will be informative topics about wellness and different wellness tips. The 2nd blog post of the month will be during the 3rd week of the month and it is purposed to answer any question you have from the last blog post. Please post your comments and questions below!

    “The Wellness Program is a student-run initiative composed of five committees, each supporting a different area of student well-being - physical, emotional/spiritual, interpersonal, academic/professional, and environmental/community. Throughout the year, each Wellness Committee is responsible for supporting student life through various program events and resources for medical students.”  - Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Student Wellness Program

    Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Student Wellness Program is one of the leaders in promoting medical student wellness. Their program was among the first wellness programs started more than 10 years ago run by students to help their peers deal with transitioning into medical school and dealing with the stress of being a medical student. In general, burnout is very prevalent in medical students. In a literature review of major US studies from 1974 to 2011, the authors found that at least half of all medical students experience burnout sometime during their medical education. This burnout can carry into residency and in practice, which is not good for the students and their patients. In addition, there is a decline in empathy as medical students go from being a 2nd year to being a 3rd year starting their clinical rotations. Medical students forget why they entered medical school in the beginning. There are many factors that can lead to burnt out and depressed medical students, which a blog post on KevinMD outlines. Burnt out students and students who lose sight of their empathy and altruism have been shown to make more errors and show unprofessional behavior.

    However, the Vanderbilt Wellness Program tries to mitigate those factors by having a student run committee that supports a different area of student well-being, including physical, emotional/ spiritual, interpersonal, academic/ professional, and environmental/ community. They provide programing and resources to improve their well-being. A New York Times article compares Vanderbilt to Hogwarts in that they have “colleges” that each student is randomly assigned to and each college participates in different creative competitions, such as an “Iron Chef”-style-cooking competition. In addition, they also have yoga classes, community service events, a mentoring program, and “class guides” for different class subjects, clinical rotations, residency applications, and incoming students. Having these resources and programming helps the students stay sane and stay encouraged to serve their patients.

    If you would like know more about the Vanderbilt Wellness program, click here.

    Does your school have a wellness program or any kind of programming to help students at your school avoid burnout?

    If yes, comment about what kind of program your has and if you feel it is effective or not. If not, maybe you can suggest a similar program to your school!

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  • AMSA Lobby Day Expanding Health Care Coverage for All

    Brandon Sandine
    Health Care For All Coordinator
    American Medical Student Association 

    On Wednesday May 21st and Thursday May 22nd members of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), American Medical Student Association (AMSA), Public Citizen and National Nurses United (NNU) gathered together in solidarity to support expanding health care coverage to all people in America. For myself, the events began with AMSA’s Lobby Day Training hosted at George Washington University on May 21st. This was an opportunity for premedical and medical students to learn the basics of political advocacy from health care and community advocacy leaders such as Robert Zarr M.D. (PNHP), Rachel Degolia (Universal Health Care Action Network), and Nick Unger (AFL-CIO).

    I found particularly inspiring the presentation “Organizing and Communicating; Medical Student Advocates” given by Nick Unger. The focus of this discussion style lecture was effective communication strategies. These included active listening/responding, narrative development, and focusing on context rather than content.

    According to Mr. Unger, effective communicators avoid listing facts and instead relate to their audience’s concerns. By doing this you can appeal to the context that your opposition adheres to and gain influence. As someone who has spent a lot of time developing my argument for single-payer, I found Mr. Unger’s communication approach incredibly important; it directly influenced the way I planned to interact with policy makers on Capitol Hill the following day.

    Armed with the knowledge gained in the previous evening's speakers, early Thursday morning AMSA members, including myself, met our constituent groups at PNHP’s official training workshop. We listened to guest speakers such as Representative John Conyers (D-MI) and broke out into our respective groups to develop our legislative meeting strategies.

    My group was primarily composed of NNU members from the Chicago area. I feel I was incredibly privileged to work with this passionate group of nurses who had encountered first-hand the consequences of a healthcare system that treats health care as a marketplace commodity. We decided that they would tell patient stories, of which they had intimate knowledge, that highlighted significant problems in our healthcare system, and I would present an image of how much better a single-payer healthcare system would be.

    We took to the hill for our first meeting with a Legislative Assistant (LA) for Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL). As we entered the meeting space a rush of nerves took hold of us. Thankfully, the LA was very welcoming and put all of us at ease. We began with general introductions, followed by sharing patient stories that were complicated by our current healthcare system’s structure. Kim, a nurse, shared the story of a patient who was denied a minimally invasive procedure because it was too costly, and given instead a less costly but highly invasive procedure with a high risk of infection.

    If we had a single-payer healthcare system that included all residents of America, Kim’s patient would have received the less risky procedure.

    After Kim's story I turned to the LA and asked if she was familiar with John Conyers' bill H.R. 676, Expanded and Improved Medicare For All. While she had heard of the bill, her concerns were that Rep. Quigley was more interested in supporting the ACA. Secondly, she claimed that this just wasn’t the right political atmosphere to pass such a bill as H.R. 676. As a now seasoned single-payer advocate, I was prepared for this kind of opposition. I suggested that the ACA is still going to cause harmful situations like those in our patient stories.

    Additionally, I suggested, supporting the ACA and H.R. 676 are not mutually exclusive. The Congressman can do both!

    As far as the political environment goes, I said that she was right! The current political atmosphere is and will remain closed to the single-payer argument--unless Legislative Assistants such as herself listen to their constituents' arguments and advise congresspeople to change their minds.

    We have one very important ask, I told her. Let Representative Quigley know that his constituents support single payer, and that if he wants our votes, so should he!

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  • A Word from AMSA's 2014-2015 National President

    Britani Kessler, DOHey AMSA! This is Britani Kessler, your new National President. My first month in office has been a whirlwind of activity. However, it is nothing compared to the past 4 years of hard work at Nova Southeastern University. I attended commencement a few weeks ago and I’m still taken back that I’m now a DO – a reality that I couldn’t fathom when I first started on this journey.

    Coming into this position, I have had the time to really reflect on my experiences both as a physician-in-training and as an AMSA member. I have been a member since my first year as a premedical student, not really knowing how I could get my head out of the books and engage in something other than my studies. Joining AMSA and meeting other students like me and having the opportunity to do lobby days and other events really opened my eyes to all that students can do to advocate for themselves and for their future patients. The years that you spend in medical school go by so quickly and you come out of it a different person than when you started. They were probably some of the toughest years of my life but I honestly wouldn’t change a thing. These experiences make you stronger and you come out of it with friendships that will last a lifetime because of all that you have gone through together. I mean, when you are eating mac and cheese out of a cardboard container at 1am, desperately trying to come up with acronyms for obscure disease processes, you become close with your fellow classmates. My point is that as physicians-in-training, enjoy the limited time that you have as students. Open yourself up to a world outside of books, meet new students from around the country, and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourselves and future patients now. I was able to do this through AMSA and I believe that all students should engage in any way that they find meaningful.

    With that in mind, I am very excited about our upcoming events! We have our Chapter Officer Recruitment and Engagement (CORE) training coming up at the end of July. This will be the first time we are hosting Chapter Officer training completely virtually, so I expect to see all of you new Chapter Officers to participate! We are also in the works are our two Fall Conferences on global health and changing the culture of medicine. These are the perfect opportunities for you to get involved and learn how to be an empowered student. If you have any questions about these opportunities, just ask! My e-mail is

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