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Never Forget: Dr. Paul Ambrose

AMSA and the world lost a great physician leader on September 11, 2001. Dr. Paul Ambrose was on board American Airlines Flight 77 when it crashed into the Pentagon. The following is an excerpt from The New Physician/January-February 2002: 

A native of Huntington, West Virginia, Ambrose stayed close to home for medical school, graduating from Marshall University School of Medicine in 1995. While there, he became active with the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), landing the job of AMSA’s legislative affairs director in 1995.

It was at AMSA where he really began to flex his health policy muscles. “He had such a command of health policy that most people would be jealous of,” says Dr. Paul Jung, a friend who met Ambrose through AMSA. “Very few people are successful with health policy. He knew that knowing this policy exists is not enough—you have to know what to do with it.” And he wanted other medical students to understand this as well.

That’s why Ambrose created AMSA’s Political Leadership Institute, Jung says. The institutes, which AMSA renamed in Ambrose’s honor, are annual weekend sessions that use lectures and role-playing examples to teach medical students political advocacy skills.

“He wanted to do things bigger,” says Dr. Travis Harker, a medical resident who is one of Ambrose’s many mentees. “He really wanted to see if he could move the whole system forward.”

After earning his medical degree, Ambrose went on to do a family practice residency at Dartmouth Medical School. He had wanted to enter a residency program with a health policy component, but none existed at the medical school at the time. So Ambrose, in his typical fashion, created his own health policy learning experiences and began to forge a close relationship with former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, eventually bringing Koop to Marshall for a presentation on public health and preventive medicine and home for supper at his parents’ house. The story goes that his mother burned dinner that night. Later, Ambrose worked with Dartmouth in his post-residency years to form the public health and family medicine program in which Harker now participates.

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