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  • The Health of All Women

    By Aliye Runyan
    AMSA Education and Research Fellow

    Do you know Roe v. Wade is currently under attack and the health of all women is at stake?

    Cleverly disguised as "state-based regulation", seven states have passed or will soon pass devastating legislation affecting access to family planning, especially in rural and underserved areas. This impacts not only the women and families in those states, but taken collectively, is a serious and deliberate blow to national family planning services.

    AMSA believes matters of reproductive health to be private and sensitive, and support the right of patients to make these decisions in confidence with their physician without the interference of any third party. In that spirit, we disagree with and discourage wholeheartedly the recent legislation affecting Ohio, Wisconsin, Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, and Mississippi. These laws, sometimes "stuck in" along with other, completely unrelated legislation, do nothing more than prevent access to safe options for abortion. In cases of such legislation where clinics like Planned Parenthood are defunded, this not only prevents safe abortion options ( in those clinics which provide it) but also restrict and discourage access to family planning resources such as contraception and scientifically based sexual education, which in turn, reduce the need for abortion.

    The way most of these bills decrease access is through TRAP laws. TRAP stands for Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers. Six states have made it illegal for abortion clinics to operate unless the physician has admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. In rural areas of Virginia and Wisconsin, two states that have recently passed TRAP laws, there is not a hospital close by.

    Dozens of rural clinics face closure because of TRAP laws. Those who support TRAP laws say they help ensure the safety of women by requiring their doctors to have admitting privileges. The vast majority of abortions are outpatient procedures that are less invasive than some dental work, colonoscopies, vasectomies, and plastic surgeries, yet only abortion providers are targeted for these unnecessarily restrictive measures.

    In an article in today's Chicago Tribune, professor emeritus of obstetrics and gynecology Dr. John Sciarra writes, "in those days [before Roe v Wade], 20 American women died for every 100,000 live births, many from unsafe abortions. We knew that legalizing abortion could save many of those lives, and we were right: today's maternal mortality rate is half of what is was then, because legal abortion is safe and back alley attempts are much rarer. We were optimistic that society would hail legalized abortion as a win for everyone. [...] Rather than increasing contraceptive availability as we recommended in 1972, ideologues attack family planning and are making all reproductive health care less available to the poor."

    Sciarra concludes with "no law that has ever been passed and no law that ever will be passed can prevent a determined woman from trying to end an unwanted pregnancy. Society and hospitals must accept their role in keeping women safe in that process."

    As a physician in training who believes in her patient's abilities to make their own choices and in the privacy and privileges of the doctor patient relationship, I absolutely agree with Sciarra's words.

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  • Calling Dr. iPhone

    Technology is in boom, especially in today’s medical world which is constantly growing and evolving to match the most up to date research and discoveries. Check out this Associated Press article, which appeared in USA Today, introducing the hottest new product on the market; your annual physical through your smart phone.

    Discussed at the 2013 TEDMED conference in Washington, D.C, this up and coming technology is designed to help patients independently monitor their health outside the doctor’s office. Whether it be checking your blood pressure, listening to your heart beat, or checking out the ears, nose and throat for possible infection - all can be done from your hand held device, and on the GO! In addition, sonograms can also be performed by your ultrasound technician with your smart phone, allowing them to be performed from virtually anywhere, and at a much more affordable price.

    It seems as though doctors believe these tools will be helpful to collect the patient’s data, and monitor their ongoing health conditions and concerns. With these types of applications and devices available office visits can essentially be reduced, allowing urgent and serious treatments to be readily available for patients in emergency situations. Although some products are still waiting for FDA approval, tools are available for purchase now.

    Read more from http://www.smartphonephysical.org, or watch a brief educational video from the Associated Press.

    Would love to hear what our nation’s next generation of physicians thinks of this trend. Do you think “iPhone physicals” are the next big thing?

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  • Today's Supreme Court Ruling

    Elizabeth Wiley, MD, JD, MPH
    AMSA National President


    What an historic day this is. For years to come we will remember this day as the first step toward achieving quality, affordable health care for all. As you know, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its decision on the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (also known as the “Affordable Care Act” or “ACA”). Today’s landmark decision will shape the environment in which we will practice medicine and determine how our patients receive care.

     

    The Supreme Court held that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional, and this ruling will bring health care access to millions of Americans. At the same time, the Court ruled that states may opt out of the expansion of Medicaid. This decision is deeply concerning. If fully implemented, Medicaid expansion would provide coverage to 16 million more Americans by expanding eligibility to individuals up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, whether they are unemployed or among the so-called working poor. Clearly, as future physicians, we must continue to champion this issue and encourage states to opt in to Medicaid expansion.

    In the wake of this historic decision, I would like to encourage you to MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD on health care reform by submitting a letter to the editor of your local or campus paper. To make this easy, we have drafted some sample language that you may use, but please tailor this letter to express your perspective on health care reform.

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  • Keep the library open after graduation

    At graduations across the country, students are walking across the stage, receiving their diplomas and beginning the next chapter of their lives. These graduates are equipped with a wealth of new tools. However, nearly all are forced to leave behind one of the most important: their library card.

    Students’ library cards are a passport to the specialized knowledge found in academic journal articles — covering medicine and math, computer science and chemistry, and many other fields. These articles contain the cutting edge of our understanding and capture the genius of what has come before. In no uncertain terms, access to journals provides critical knowledge and an up-to-date education for tomorrow’s doctors, researchers and entrepreneurs.

    But should that access cease at graduation? .....

    Read the rest of the opinion-editorial that appeared in the Washington Post (6/7/12) authored by AMSA National President Elizabeth Wiley, MD, JD, MPH and Matt Cooper, president and CEO of the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students.

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  • SCOTUS: Day 2

    Check out C-SPAN's coverage of the Supreme Court Hearings.

    http://www.c-span.org/flvPop.aspx?src=cspan1&msg=You+are+watching+the+C-SPAN+Networks&start=1.835&end=-1 

    Today, the Court will hear testimony regarding the individual mandate portion of the law, which requires virtually all Americans to obtain health insurance or pay a fine. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2014. The Court will consider whether the individual mandate is in fact constitutional.

    What do you think? Does Congress have the power to enact a law requiring everyone in the United States to buy health insurance?

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  • Supreme Court Hears ACA Arguments

    The Supreme Court is in the midst of hearing oral arguments to determine whether Congress can require Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. AMSA leaders went to the Supreme Court today to support comprehensive health care reform that works for patients and physicians: expanding coverage, lowering costs and upholding quality.

    Monday’s testimony focused on whether the court has jurisdiction in the case or if they must wait until the law is enacted in 2014. Tuesday's hearing will focus on the individual mandate, which requires that all Americans purchase health insurance, either through their employers or under individual plans, or pay a penalty. Wednesday’s hearing will focus on whether the law can stand if the individual mandate is eliminated. Wednesday will also include arguments over the expansion of Medicaid to subsidize an estimated 17 million more lower income Americans.

    Read more at MedPage Today: http://www.medpagetoday.com/Washington-Watch/Reform/31853

    Pictured below: AMSA President-Elect Elizabeth Wiley, Health Policy Chair Kristin Huntoon and Education and Advocacy Fellow Colin McCluney.

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  • Tell Congress to Protect Women's Healthcare!

    Recognizing the benefit of removing barriers to access to contraception, the Department of Health and Human Services released a rule requiring insurance plans to provide no-cost birth control coverage. Some conservative groups have manufactured an uproar about this, claiming that it impinges on religious freedom to require insurance to offer contraception at no cost - despite the fact that churches and houses of worship may exempt themselves from the requirement. On top of that, many states have had similar requirements for several years without incident and the inclusion of contraceptive coverage in insurance plans has been widely required since the year 2000.

    This rule does not requires anyone to use contraceptives and it does not require employers to endorse them. What it does is allows students at religious universities or employees of religiously-affiliated hospitals to exercise their own individual beliefs without the barrier of cost.

    Some members of Congress are now attempting to overrule the administration by introducing bills that would take these decisions out of the hands of women and physicians, and instead let employers choose if women should have access to contraception. Write or call your elected officials today and tell them to protect access to preventive care for women, including no-cost contraception!

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  • Medical Schools Commit to Treating PTSD

    Michelle Obama has gotten commitment from medical schools across the country to boost training and research for the treatment of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health injuries. The First Lady is launching her Joining Forces campaign, which focuses on issues affecting veterans and their families.

    More than 100 medical schools have made the commitment to step up training for medical students in how to treat PTSD and traumatic brain injury, increase research into the conditions and share new information and best practices.

    The Defense Department estimates that nearly 213,000 military personnel have suffered traumatic brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2000.

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  • Don't Let the Supercommittee Cut Residency Positions!

    As you have probably heard, the Congressional "Supercommittee," or the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, is scheduled to announce its recommendations to cut $1.5 trillion in federal spending over the next ten years on Wednesday, Nov. 23. The Supercommittee was created by the Budget Control Act of 2011 back in August to avert the debt ceiling crisis. Congress is scheduled to vote on these recommendations by Dec. 23. If Congress fails to adopt Supercommittee recommendations, there will be an automatic sequestration, or across-the-board cuts.

    The Supercommittee is rumored to be contemplating substantial (up to 60%) cuts to Medicare Graduate Medical Education (GME) funding which supports vast majority of residency programs in the U.S. As a result, it is critical that we, as physicians-in-training, make our voices heard on this issue. Please take a few seconds to email your members of Congress and urge them to protect Medicare GME:

    The American Medical Student Association strongly supports continued Medicare GME funding and condemns any effort to cut this funding. Massive cuts to Medicare GME will compromise patient access to care and, in some cases, may result in the closure of some residency programs. As the United States seeks to insure millions of previously uninsured Americans, it is critical that the federal government continue to invest in a robust health professional workforce to meet our nation's health care needs. Sustained GME funding is an essential element of this investment.  



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  • Why are ER's Closing?

    A study in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association states that 30 percent of emergency rooms have closed across the country - though patient visits to the ER have increased by 35 percent over the last 20 years.

    According to HealthDay, "Market forces, such as competition and dwindling profits, explain most of the closings, said the researchers, who originally set out to study increasing reports of ER overcrowding."

    Emergency rooms must see all patients, regardless of their ability to pay. Hospitals - especially those in urban areas that cater to those below the poverty line - simply aren't making enough money. 

    What do you think of this news? We want to hear from you! What does this mean for patients now? And how will this worsen when the health care law is enacted?

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