This past year was full of challenges no one could have seen coming. A raging pandemic with over 400,000 dead that is still not under control, frontline workers and trainees left to fight without crucial tools, assaults on science and public health, an overhaul to medical education, a national reckoning for racial injustice, and threats to the very fabric of our democracy.
But in the midst of 2020’s myriad of trials, we saw heroes rise to serve across health care, public health, science, and the general public. We saw communities come together, unite for change, and vote in opportunity for a new future. We saw medical students step up to aid their communities as they stepped in to care for COVID patients and helped in contact tracing. We saw young people and students join efforts to get PPE to communities in need, and rally to assist as vaccination efforts launched around the country.
Our Med Out The Vote campaign successfully supported thousands of voter registrations and mail-in ballot requests, and identified hundreds of future physicians to serve as poll workers in this past election. We sought opportunities to focus on COVID-19 resources that would be useful to medical students. In addition, our action committees, campaigns, and Activism Updates continued to spotlight issues that mattered to us, ranging from racial inequity in health care to environmental justice, from immigrant health rights to mental health care access. We worked to build coalitions with partner organizations and leaders in health care, growing our community of activists, advocates, and allies along the way, including the Lower Drug Prices Now Campaign, and we hosted virtual Town Halls to spread vital information. We also established a new AMSA Reproductive Health Project that provided educational and skill-building programs for students across the country.
Now, with the start of a new year, we stand poised for change. As a community of future physicians, AMSA believes providers and patients are partners in the management and maintenance of health, and that access to equitable, high-quality and affordable health care is a right. We also believe providers and policy-makers are rightly partners in crafting health policies if we are to create a health care system that puts people above profits and leaves no one behind. With the promise of a new government, we look forward to the work that must be done to address long-standing racism in our medical education and health care systems, and ensure just and affordable health care for all in this country.
Our 2020 advocacy priorities – racial justice, health equity and access, civic engagement, medical education reform, and COVID19 – will remain front and center for AMSA in 2021. We continue to strongly support the blueprint of action laid out by Dr. Donald Berwick in “The Moral Determinants of Health.” With these roadmaps in front of us, we redouble our efforts to advocate with the new administration on the issues that are important to us as future physicians. We are likewise developing AMSA’s legislative priorities for the 117th Congress.
Over the course of the next few months, we invite you to join us in action. Tell us what is going on in your community, share your ideas, and watch for upcoming resources we will provide.
As we move beyond 2020 and into the promise of 2021, AMSA stands firm in our over 70-year commitment to serve as the voice for future physicians and to advocate for the health rights of our future patients and our communities. This commitment extends into our work with the incoming Biden-Harris administration and the 117th Congress. Moving forward this year, we will increase and focus our advocacy and activism to:
- Protect our health care workers
- Strengthen our health care systems
- Fight for our climate
While on our journey to consistently sustain civic engagement among future physicians, we are still in the midst of a pandemic and a climate crisis that threaten both the health and the economic wellbeing of our nation and the world. These crises present our generation’s fierce urgency of now and call us to action. AMSA remains committed to advancing the interests of students and trainees not just because they serve as the crucial conscience of the house of medicine, but to cast the mold that shapes physicians into the role our country needs. We invite you to gather with us for our 71st annual AMSA National Convention and Exposition, where on our virtual Capitol Hill Advocacy Day we will lift our voices to our new Congress and President in unity and purpose. Together we can help heal our nation, and achieve our vision for a world where health care is accessible, medicine is affordable, and systems support the diversity we see around us.
Ali Bokhari, DO, MPH
AMSA National President
AMSA National/KP Education and Advocacy Fellow