Lunch-time Events to Educate Members

Types of Events

Small group discussion: These are easy-to-plan, inexpensive projects that will help educate your chapter on the issues that are important to you.  They are often led by a small group, with contributions from interested participants.  You may wish to hold these on a regular schedule, or plan a single event around a particular project or issue.

Student or Faculty Presentations: This requires more preparation from the organizer and less preparation from the participants, but is appropriate for topics that may be too complex for a single article or for which the insight of an expert might help stimulate discussion.

Interactive Excercises: Running an activity in which everyone participates and learns something can be challenging, but can also be a lot of fun.

Things to Consider

The following are a few questions to consider when you think about which kind of event you’d like to hold:

  1. How many people do you want to reach?

    If you have a small group of interested individuals, you may wish to organize a discussion rather than a lecture, as it is more intimate and more participation is possible.  If you have a large group, a lecture or presentation may by your only option, as discussions can become unwieldy.  Consider interactive exercises on a case by case basis, and talk to people who have done the exercise before about whether it is best for a large or small group.

  2. Who are the experts on your topic?

    If you have an expert on your topic near to your school, consider inviting her/him to participate in your event.  Other considerations (the rest of these questions!) will determine the specific way in which this person participates (i.e. as a lecturer or as a discussion participant).  Often, however, there isn’t a convenient expert available.  In this case, consider having a student prepare a presentation, or chose to discuss an article.

  3. Do you want to provide food?

    A “brown bag lunch” means that everyone brings their own lunch.  Regardless of your format, this may be a successful way to run your event.  You may also consider providing food to recruit a broader audience. 

Getting Started

Find a few friends or other people in your class who share your interests to form a seed group. Discuss how frequently you would like to meet, whether it is for a single event to educate your class about an issue, or regularly. If you decide to meet regularly, it should be frequent enough to ensure that people won’t forget about the group, but not so frequently that people burn out on the idea. Once every other week usually provides the best arrangement. It is also a good idea to keep a regular schedule.

Next find a place to meet. The ideal place is somewhere in the vicinity of where afternoon lecture lets out. Although it is important to have a quiet area, do not avoid general areas as you may have a few people join in the discussion spontaneously. If you are organizing a larger presentation, consider the size of your anticipated audience when choosing a lecture hall or smaller classroom.  If you have a budget for any food or drinks it will help with attendance markedly.

Pick an article, presentation, or activity. Use the sources below, or find one on your own. All medical school libraries have major journals. You can take a quick survey to see what participants are interested in talking about. You can also find relevant articles and activities throughout the AMSA website.

Announce to the class a week in advance that there will be an event relating to the issue that your article covers. If you are discussing an article, make it clear that although participants are encouraged to read the article beforehand, it most certainly is not required. Let the class know how long it will last, and what will be covered.  If you have a copying budget, make any materials available to participants at the event. Bring extra copies to the lunch with you.

Holding the Lunch

When you meet, wait a few minutes before you begin. It will give people a chance to eat and speak socially making the experience more enjoyable. Remember, everyone is coming weary from several hours of dry lectures.If you are discussing an article, it is usually best to begin with a summary, and to encourage people to participate even if they have not had an opportunity to read the article.  If you have a large group, you may want to have a designated moderator to help keep the discussion moving and focused. The moderator should encourage as many people to offer their thoughts as possible. Do not let one person monopolize the time. It is sometimes effective to end by going around the table and asking participants to give a quick statement on how they feel about the article.

If you are running an activity or presentation, make sure you keep the presenter or facilitator on time, and discuss your expectations for participation from the audience beforehand.

End with enough time for everyone to get back to class on time, and always announce the next meeting date and topic.

A schedule might look like this:

12:00-12:15 Eat, drink, be merry.
12:15-12:20 Summary and highlights of the article/Introduction
12:20-12:45 Moderated discussion/Presentation
12:45-12:55 Final thoughts

AMSA’s Top Picks Article List

National Health Service Corps

  • AMSA’s primer on the National Health Service Corp (PDF)
  • The Muscular Samaritan: The National Health Service Corps In The New Century Health Affairs Year: 1999 Volume: 18 Number: 2 Pages: 168-175

Medical Student Debt

Resident Work Hours

Universal Health Care

Pharmaceutical Industry

Medical Malpractice

Medical Education

  • Tobacco Dependence Curricula in US Undergraduate Medical Education
    JAMA September 1, 1999-Vol 282, No. 9
  • The Effect of a Domestic Violence Interclerkship on the Knowledge, Attitudes, and Skills of Third-Year Medical Students.
    Academic Medicine Vol 74, No.7 / July 1999
  • In addition, Thomas Bodenheimer’s book Understanding Health Policy by Appleton & Lange (ISBN 0-8385-9075-6) is an excellent tool to help educate medical students on health policy. If your attendees are interested in purchasing the book, you could go over several chapters during lunch discussions.

Additional Sources for Articles and General Information