The University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Medicine (UNLV SoM), established in 2014, opened its doors to the Founding Charter Class on July 17, 2017. Since then, our American Medical Student Association (AMSA) chapter at UNLV SoM has come a long way: hosting ZDoggMD, creating partnerships with local physician organizations, securing publications in local medical journals, representing Southern Nevada at the AMSA National Convention earlier this Spring, and receiving accreditation as a nationally recognized AMSA medical school chapter.
Our first meeting was held prior to the start of the medical school year during the Second Look Program on April 23, 2017, by current 2017-2018 Chapter President Vladislav Zhitny. Zhitny prepared a presentation to help other students learn more about AMSA, and these were the first steps to the start of the UNLV AMSA chapter. Zhitny credits our chapter’s active presence in Las Vegas to ‘realizing that medicine extends beyond traditional science and diagnoses.’ He says, “Medicine also involves practicing our humanity to one another. As members of the founding class in a region that is a medical desert, we realize that we are establishing a framework and example not only for future medical student cohorts, but also for Las Vegas as a whole.”
Las Vegas was shaken by a mass shooting on October 1, 2017, at Route 91 Harvest Festival. The hospitals of Las Vegas were overwhelmed by the sheer number of casualties–58 people lost their lives and 489 suffered injuries. The majority of victims were divided between Sunrise and the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada hospitals. Because of UNLV School of Medicine’s dedication to serving the Las Vegas area, the student government had already organized a blood drive set on this date. This blood drive, organized by students Maran Shaker and Faun Botor, ultimately served the victims. The school also united to make care baskets, which contained snacks and meals for the medical staff and the victims to eat, led by Student Body President Elizabeth Groesbeck.
UNLV School of Medicine’s core values revolve serving the community with compassion and humility, as exemplified by the school’s service following this tragedy and by the school’s longitudinal community service projects. In a class of 60 students, we knew that as long as we developed a strong foundation, it would be okay to start out small. Our AMSA chapter chose to embody UNLV School of Medicine’s spirit of service to others. Surprisingly, our organization became the largest student organization at the medical school, comprised of one-third of the class. From day one, we outlined our open recruitment policy, allowing for anyone interested to attend any of their events. At the first general meeting, we were excited to speak on the goals for the upcoming school year such as our planned speaker events, advocacy efforts and mentorship of pre-medical students.
AMSA National President during the 2017-2018 year helped us kick off the first official meeting. After the visit, our secretary Diana Peña expressed, “We never would have imagined the national president would have made the time to visit us, being a new chapter at a new school, but we are so grateful for all the support we have received from AMSA National. This has undoubtedly helped with our success.”
Another impressive speaker event was that of ZDoggMD, a project worked on by Treasurer Chase Shropshire over a period of six months. ZDoggMD made time to speak to the students on Healthcare 3.0, which focused on the ethical and logistical future of health-related information on the web. “Everyone was excited to see ZDogg. We all grew up watching him on Facebook,” said Shropshire. With the help of Historian Alex Ma, whose flyers help publicize the speaker events, and undoubtedly because of ZDoggMD’s reputation as an internet comedian, there was an amazing turn out for his talk that included both medical students and physician residents. Many of the students have grown up hearing his amusing take on important issues in the medical profession.“I loved the enthusiasm, it’s a great school with great kids. I was happy to be able talk to them,” said one student.
To expand our outreach and initiatives, we joined forces with other organizations on campus and in the community. Our chapter partnered with the Medical Supply Reserve to reduce medical waste by collecting unused medical supplies and donating them to free clinics in town. We also reached out to Clark County Medical Society (CCMS), a non-profit advocacy driven physician organization in Southern Nevada. Through the partnership, medical and pre-medical AMSA students were able to volunteer at local political events including CCMS Opioid Town Hall event. This town hall educated physicians and opened up discussion on new state legislative approaches to fighting the opioid epidemic in the state of Nevada. We extended our efforts through partnership with the undergraduate AMSA pre-med chapter, led by the UNLV undergraduate Chapter President Savannah Spataro. In conjunction with these service activities, our chapter Vice President Michael Briones established a mentorship program for the undergraduates preparing to apply to medical schools. Through the generosity of the UNLV School of Medicine administration, a $2,000 grant was given to student-run organizations. This grant allowed for students to travel to the AMSA National Convention this past March 2018.
In our first year as a new medical school, not only did we achieve national recognition as an AMSA chapter, but we also traveled to the AMSA National Convention in Washington, D.C., this past spring. Attending the convention was inspiring; there were so many chapters from all around the country and abroad. The convention gave us ideas for future events on campus, particularly in regard to mental health. Further advocacy efforts are planned for our upcoming school year, including organizing Mental Health Awareness Week, battling the opioid epidemic in Southern Nevada, and on increasing residency spots within this region. When reflecting on AMSA UNLV SoM’s past year, Zhitny expressed, “It gets difficult; it’s a lot of work. Being part of a team means that despite the occasional disagreement, taking into account everyone’s ideas and perspectives helps create something meaningful. Our legacy will be here for years to come.”
Do you know of an AMSA member, leader, or chapter that deserves to be recognized? Do you want to share your leadership story with other AMSA members? Share your story for consideration! Selected leaders and chapters will be featured on AMSA’s On Call blog.