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  • Graduating Medical Students Tell the AMA, “I’m Opting Out”

    On Wednesday, April 10, graduating medical students will tell the American Medical Association (AMA) that they are opting out of the AMA Physician Masterfile and that they do not want their personal and prescribing information sold to the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. National Opt Out Day, sponsored by the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), hopes to rally hundreds of fourth year medical students.

    The AMA Physician Masterfile was established by the AMA in 1906 as a record keeping device supporting membership and mailing activities. The Physician Masterfile includes current and historical data for more than 1.4 million physicians, residents and medical students in the United States. Today, sales of the AMA Physician Masterfile totals more than $40 million per year and over 20 percent of their annual revenue.

    “The AMA should not be selling this data to pharmaceutical and medical device companies for the purpose of tracking physicians’ prescribing habits to devise directed marketing strategies,” Reshma Ramachandran, AMSA PharmFree Fellow. “Information from the AMA Physician Masterfile should only be used for research purposes to benefit our patients.”

    “We want our members – the nation’s future physicians – to understand what this information is being used for so they can make their own decision to remain in the database or opt-out,” says Dr. Elizabeth Wiley, AMSA National President. “Physicians should practice evidence-based medicine using the best existing clinical evidence—not carefully-packaged advertising—and continue to uphold personal and professional integrity.”

    “As a physician, I have no knowledge or control over data about me that is sold in the AMA Masterfile," says Dr. Michael Mendoza, medical director at Highland Family Medicine in Rochester, New York and alumni of AMSA. "I am not an AMA member, and I feel that the AMA has abused my rights to privacy by selling data about me without my consent for commercial and marketing purposes."

    National Opt Out Day is just one of the events scheduled during National PharmFree Week (NPFW), April 8 – 12, sponsored by AMSA. Thousands of medical students will celebrate the annual event and focus on putting patients first by addressing conflicts of interest and encouraging evidence-based rather than marketing-based education. NPFW aims to focus the attention of medical, premedical and allied health students on the importance of understanding the impact and control of financial and professional relationships with pharmaceutical and medical device companies in education, research and patient care.

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  • Join us for EFPC!

    There are only two conferences left this fall so don't miss out! Join future physicians from around the world in coming together for inspiration, knowledge, networking & fun!

    Register online here!

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  • Primary Care is....

    ....the underdog. Is undervalued. Is misunderstood. Is antiquated. Is dysfunctional. Needs a makeover. Could use a LOUD cheerleading section.

    PRIMARY CARE…
    Is brimming with hope. Is timeless. Makes communities healthier. Is team-based care. Is the future of health care. Is THE place for higher quality care and lower spending.

    Today we start celebrating National Primary Care Week. Let's give primary care a voice - your voice!

    1. Print the “Primary Care…” signboard. Write what primary care means to you on any sheet of paper.
    2. Write out your message. Need inspiration? Click here
    3. Have someone take your picture, aiming for a head and shoulders shot but feel free to get creative. The important thing is that the message is clear and visible.
    4. Get it to us! Upload it using the upload bar on this page. Tweet it using the hashtag #voicesforpcare. Or email it to us at voices@primarycareprogress.org.

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  • How to Run a Successful Lobby Visit

    AMSA's AIDS Advocacy Network and Health Policy Action Committee invite your chapter to join our skill-building Webinar: "How to Run a Successful Lobby Visit" facilitated by Kaytee Riek, Campaign Manager at SumOfUs.

    When: October 18th, 8 - 9:30 pm EST

    RSVP to policy.education@amsa.org


    Do you want to use your voice to address the social determinants of health, but don't know how? We're here to help you and your chapter make a difference this year. Don't hesitate to get in touch with us if we can support your chapter's policy work this year! 

    During this Webinar, Kaytee -- who has years of experience working on global and domestic AIDS advocacy, as well as corporate accountability campaigns-- will teach us why legislative visits are a key tool to affect policy and will take us through the essential steps for making a trip to your legislator's office a successful venture for your chapter and the issues you care about! Our goal is to have at least 50 AMSA legislative visits between now and the Annual Conference in March. Will you join us in this effort?

    Some Potential Issues Your Chapter Can Lobby On:
    There's at least one major political battle that will be fought each year for the rest of our lives-- the federal budget. The budget makes a huge difference in our patients' lives and in the social determinants of health-- and this webinar will help you fight for lifesaving and health-sustaining programs. Some that we care deeply about are HIV programs in the US (eg Ryan White, Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS-HOPWA) and abroad (eg PEPFAR, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria), the overturn of the federal ban on syringe exchange funding, as well as housing support, food stamps, and many many others. This year there are special challenges given a budget "sequestration" plan that would cut programs across the board from around 8-10%, and may go into effect as soon as January 2nd. We have to stop the cuts to programs we care about and fight for increases in funding where needed.

    There's also a Robin Hood Tax Campaign that needs co-sponsors in the House of Representatives (http://www.robinhoodtax.org/). This is a tax on Big Banks and Wall Street -- to help raise the revenue we need instead of forcing us to slash safety net programs due to "lack of funds". The National Nurses Union is very actively working on this campaign across the country, so you may be able to team up with them to work on this campaign.

    The Trans Pacific Partnership is a raw trade deal that will severely weaken access to generic drugs in a number of low and middle income countries around the world. You can go to your officials and ask them to use their power to speak against it. Read more about this.

    As constituents, your elected officials want to hear from you! Studies have shown that this is one of the most effective, tried-and-true ways to impact policy. So please gather up some of your classmates and RSVP to tune in as a group to this Webinar. Individuals can also attend, but there can only be 25 participants and groups will be given preference.

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  • Escape Fire

    Today, over 50 medical schools across the country will host advance screenings of ESCAPE FIRE: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare.

    Click here to find a screening near you and check out the film's trailer below!




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  • Building a movement for universal health care in Illinois

    By Kathy Wollner, Rush Medical College
    and Zach Bay, Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine
    Standard responses you get when you ask a medical student to participate in health policy advocacy:

    “The system is too complicated to try to change it.”
    “There’s nothing I can do to make the system better.”
    “I support change but I don’t think we can actually make a difference."
    “I support this but I am too busy.”

    These are the statements we hear time and again and even tell ourselves on occasion. Being both a medical student and a single-payer advocate is certainly not for the easily discouraged. In spite of these challenges, this month in Illinois twenty medical students teamed up to speak out against our inefficient, extremely expensive health care system that doesn’t even begin to take care of everyone. 

    On April 11, AMSA members from Northwestern, Rush, and Rosalind Franklin joined with colleagues from the Illinois Single Payer Coalition in support of the Illinois Universal Health Care Act (HB 311). Over the course of the day, we spoke with or distributed literature to every Representative and Senator in the state legislature. Though diverse in age, culture, race, gender and religion, we were unified by our common commitment to a single payer health care system that will cut out the for-profit middle-man between doctor and patient. Our white coats broadcast our stake in the health care system as health professionals in training.

    Aderonke Bambgose, AMSA president at Northwestern, gave an impassioned speech on the glaring faults of our current health care system:


    Dr. Quentin Young, national coordinator for Physicians for a National Health Program, gave an assessment of the national fight for single-payer and a shout out to students’ commitment to health justice:


    Meeting with policy makers and hearing their different viewpoints on the issues was both challenging and inspiring. It was great to learn that although our voices alone seem weak, we can make our collective voice be heard by sharing our opinion with those elected to represent us. 

    While we know achieving universal health care in Illinois will be an uphill battle, we’re in it for the long haul. How could we not be? The health care system is the world we will take part daily as health professionals and, every more importantly, the reality of health care – or lack there of – for our future patients.

    Here’s some audio coverage of the press conference from CBS local news and additional videos from the press conference can be viewed here.

    If you’re in Chicago and you’d like to get involved in single-payer advocacy, please contact us (email womens.policy@amsa.org)! 

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  • Medical Students Propose Soda Tax to Fight Childhood Obesity

    A group of Vanderbilt University medical students has united in support of what they feel to be positive steps in Tennessee’s battle with childhood obesity. Members of the Vanderbilt AMSA chapter are campaigning for a bill sponsored by State Senator Beverly Marrero and Representative Mike Stewart, which would place a one-cent per ounce tax on bottled soft drinks containing sugar in exchange for a reduction in the retail sales tax on food by 1 percent.

    The students held a Lobby Day for their campaign at the State Capitol on Wednesday, March 23, 2011 to advocate for this bill and stress the urgency of addressing childhood obesity. Their campaign, called Give Tennessee Kids a Chance, has received support from health care organizations across the state, such the as Tennessee Obesity Taskforce and the Greater Southeast Affiliate of the American Heart Association. The bill will be presented to the TN State House of Representatives for debate in the Finance Subcommittee on Wednesday morning, March 30, 2011.

    Given that the risk of becoming an obese adult increases by 60 percent with each sugary drink a child drinks per day, and that soft drinks are the single largest contributor to daily calorie intake in the United States, the students and their supporters hope to help parents and children think twice when making their beverage selection. Further, by lowering the 5.5 percent sales tax on food in TN (the third highest in the nation) to 4.5 percent, the bill will make it easier for families to purchase healthier meals. With over 30 percent of the nation’s children either overweight or obese, and with Tennessee currently ranked as the 6th worst state in childhood obesity rates (36.5 percent of its children overweight or obese), this bill could not come at a more important time in childhood public health.  

    American Medical Student Association members lobby for soda tax to fight childhood obesity.

    (Pictured:  Jason Chen, Jessica Solomon, Representative Janis Sontany (D-TN), Scott Hagan, and Sina Salehi Omran.)

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  • Got Health Equity?

    Betty Chung
    Chair, Race, Ethnicity, and Culture in Health Action Committee
    MS4
    UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine

    AMSA’s Race, Ethnicity, and Culture in Health (REACH) Action Committee is hosting its 2nd annual Health Equity Week of Action (HEWA), January 10-14, 2011.

    HEWA brings national attention to the issue of health equity, a concept not often taught in health professional curricula, to empower future health professionals-in-training to advocate for social and health justice in their communities. While most students can name specific health disparities, whether genetic, due to one’s environment, or man-made, many cannot verbalize exactly what the term health equity means. HEWA is meant to shine a light on and make visible the socio-economic and racial health inequities in our communities that we may often neglect or not see.

    When referring to the health of populations or communities, health inequities result from systemic conditions that are not only unfair but also avoidable and therefore, inherently unjust. Health inequities can be traced back to unequal socio-economic status and inequitable distribution of resources from policies that we as a society created. Higher wealth status means higher health status and this should not be in a country that boasts some of the best medicine and technology in the world.

    A recent Columbia University study ranked the United States 49th among all industrialized countries in terms of life expectancy for both men and women combined. What do these other countries know that we don’t? While these other countries have some form of national health care system, it is not only an issue of healthcare access that we lack for many in the U.S., but just as, if not more importantly, a lack of an egalitarian belief in a shared, social welfare that undermines our society’s health as a whole. Valuing individual responsibility and accountability for one’s fate over all other values has come at the cost of believing that working together for a common good, that of a healthy society, will benefit us as individuals as well.

    Through this week of action, we hope to light the fire to build a student health equity movement. We hope to reframe the way that we view how we can most impact health issues in our country and to show that these health disparities are unfair because we put into place the policies that created, propagated, and maintain them. And most importantly, to empower future health professionals-in-training and community members that it is our social responsibility to work together to make such change possible!

    We’d like to thank our national co-sponsors this year for HEWA that include other organizations that also believe in working towards health equity:

    • American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA)
    • Association of Native American Medical Students (ANAMS)
    • Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association (APAMSA)
    • American Public Health Association - Student Assembly (APHA-SA)
    • National Association of City and County Health Officials (NACCHO)
    • Native Health Initiative (NHI)
    • Student National Medical Association (SNMA)
    • Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA)

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  • Commemorating World AIDS Day

    Today, members of the American Medical Student Association join millions of people across the globe to observe World AIDS Day today. They are working to impact national and international policy related to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment and to provide AMSA chapters with the tools to engage students in the fight, while teaching the skills of political advocacy. 

    AMSA is advocating for:

    • President Obama and Members of Congress to fully fund the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis.

    • President Obama to keep his campaign promise from 2008 and increase funding for global AIDS to $50 billion over five years. More funding will double the amount of people on HIV treatment, increase access to proven HIV prevention tools, and train and retain hundreds of thousands of health care workers.

    • An end to AIDS drug waiting lists in the United States and countries around the world by expanding treatment programs and providing universal access to life-saving medications. There are still 10 million people globally who lack access to AIDS drugs leading to continued growth of the epidemic and millions of preventable deaths.

    “World AIDS Day is a day on which we, as a global community, stand in solidarity to halt the devastating effects the current pandemic has had on people, communities and nations,” says Merrian Brooks, AMSA AIDS Advocacy Network Co-Chair. “AMSA members will rally across the country to bring education and activism to bear in the fight against HIV/AIDS.”

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  • National PharmFree Week: Much to Celebrate!

    By Chris Manz
    Chair, PharmFree Steering Committee


    This past year has seen a number of notable advances in medical center conflict of industry policies. Two years ago, PharmFree students at Harvard School of Medicine demanded that their school develop a rigorous policy for regulating relationships between industry and physicians at its hospitals. Their efforts bore fruit a few months ago when Harvard announced its new conflict of interest policy that, among other things, makes Harvard one of the few medical schools to bar faculty from participating on speakers bureaus.

    University of Michigan also upped the bar this year by establishing a policy that bars industry funding of continuing medical education. These developments belie a groundswell in new policies at schools across the country which we look forward to documenting when the 2010 AMSA PharmFree Scorecard is released next month.

    Earlier this year, we saw the passage of the Physicians Payment Sunshine Act, a bill long championed by PharmFree that makes transparent payments that industry makes to physicians. But while the law does not take affect for a few years, a recent ProPublica report used currently available industry payment databases from just a handful of companies, documenting $250 million in payments to 17,000 physicians across the country. The stunning magnitude of these payments underscore that there is much work to be done. But PharmFree is on it.

    In addition to advocacy for robust conflict of interest policies, medical students are using National PharmFree Week as an opportunity to call on their representatives in Congress and ask them to ban Pay for Delay deals. These collusive deals, where a brand name pharmaceutical company pays a generic company to keep generic competition from entering the market and lowering prices, delay access to affected drugs by an average of 17 months, costing American patients an estimated $35 billion over the next decade. Want to help? Take 2 minutes to write your Congressman right now! Just click here.

    As our tagline says, PharmFree promotes evidence-based prescribing, pharmaceutical innovation and access to medicines. This week, we highlight the PharmFree students that continue to push their institutions to implement conflict of interest policies that restore the integrity of the medical practice and students calling on Congress to put patients first and ensure affordable access to medicines.

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