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Every leader is part of a team: let us build medical progress!

Whitney McFadden
AMSA National Health Policy Coordinator

This past weekend the 19th Annual National APAMSA conference took center stage amongst the deep oranges and reds of the slowly ripening leaves in the Midwest. While in town, I decided to attend the conference, catch up with APAMSA friends, and meet a few of the motivated students responsible for organizing this well attended, high energy conference of medical students.

The United Asian American Medical Student Association (UA AMSA) chapter hosted the conference this year at the University of Michigan and welcomed students from all over the country to the School of Public health for a weekend of engaging speakers, thought provoking conversation, talks on out of the box innovations centered around Asian American populations. However, the themes of this conference transcended the whole medical community, and while I did not, for a second, feel out of place amidst my Asian American cohorts, I realized the empowerment present in this community. The perfect combination of successful and accomplished Asian American physicians was fueling the next generation of students, changing our prior understanding of science, teamwork, and leadership. 

Upon my arrival, I was graciously introduced to a few of the conference coordinators including Peter Park, and heard about the hard work put in by the rest of the UAAMSA team Helen Shi, Claudia Cao, and Mike Chu. I made it in time to watch Dr. Tao Li present his Step 1 advice. After having completed Step 1, the talk took on a whole new meaning. While study techniques were the highlight, Dr. Li managed to take on a very important role for these students. As a mentor, he took on the burden of the future. By that, I mean he has the power to say the smart, eager, and motivated student, with the right study plan, will do just fine. Quelling anxiety, encouraging a relaxed approach, and offering tools to master this test in a healthy way will lead to better scores, better performance, and more well balanced medical students. Will these strategies prove useful outside step 1? I would argue they set the stage for the lifetime of learning that student doctors must embrace in their future careers.

Some of the most thought provoking talks came from those addressing the role of the team in healthcare and how to harness skills to be a leader. Arthur Chen, an alumni to the AMSA national convention 2012 in Houston TX was amidst the speakers addressing the need for leaders. But does being a leader mean sacrificing the team? Quite the contrary. It seems being a leader necessitates a team and APAMSA offers the opportunity for students to be empowered in their field of medicine to take on leadership roles and coordinate a team. Christine Thang, AMSA chapter president and APAMSA representative at UCLA shared her thoughts:

“APAMSA and AMSA share in similar visions, they both aim to empower medical students. Both organizations recognize that medical students represent the future of healthcare and strive to empower students with the knowledge and recognition of the fact that we cannot simply just accept the status quo.”

She makes a good point that, as students, we are still a powerful force and can affect the lives of patients in need. For APAMSA, the students are able to address the needs of the underserved and underinsured Asian American populations taking on leadership roles and team based approaches in health fairs and student run programs as well as biomedical research. Peter Wu, University of Michigan UAAMSA member, addressed the need for cancer screening in the Asian American population through his clinical research:

“Cancer, not heart disease, is the leading cause of death in Asian Americans. We suffer greatest from disparities in breast, liver, and gastric cancers. The most unfortunate aspect of this statistic is that these are all diseases that can be screened for.”

These advances in healthcare come with great insight as to how medical research should be conducted, how policy can be implemented, and how physicians understand their specific communities. These are the keys to developing more of the much-needed leadership in medicine.

Christine also notes, “While they are amazing physician leaders, it also makes you realize that we need more.” After attending the national APAMSA conference this year, more are definitely on their way. Empowerment of student doctors as leaders, advocates, friends, and team members is universal and should continue with innovative ideas and new perspectives in places where these conversations are dynamically shared.

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