AMSA’s Reproductive Health Project works to advance the vision and goals of Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice (RHRJ) by supporting the professional growth and ethical development of future abortion care providers, with a focus on cultivating perspectives and ethics in medical students which are informed by the principles and political commitments of Reproductive Justice.
This week, on Thursday, March 10, we will observe and celebrate Abortion Provider Appreciation Day, a day set aside to honor and express gratitude and appreciation for everyone who lovingly provides abortion care here in the US and around the world. AMSA celebrates everyone who provides abortion care, and we also celebrate and support those who, as medical students, are committing themselves now to providing abortion care in the future. One of the initiatives of our Reproductive Health Project is a new kind of mentoring program for medical students who are considering clinical practices that encompass family planning and abortion care. Based on the construct of “sprints” each 4-week program supports mentoring pairs who come together once per week for a total of four conversations. Our goal is to plant a lot of seeds for new relationships that might get started during the Mentorship Sprint, and which may continue to grow and mature beyond the initial four weeks.
In anticipation of the next round of AMSA’s Reproductive Health Mentorship Sprint – apply at this link by April 15, 2022 for the next sprint, May 2 – June 3 – we thought we’d share a few narratives from medical students who have recently participated. These reflections were written by the students, co-created in conversation with their mentors. The second entry in this series, below, has been written by Ellie Mueller, a student at New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State (in Jonesboro, AR). If you missed the first entry, written by Shereen Jeyakumar, a medical student at FAU, you can read it here.
It’s up to Us To Be the Change & Action That We Preach
By: Ellie Mueller, New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State (NYITCOM-Arkansas)
Recently, I had the opportunity to partake in the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) Reproductive Health Mentorship program, where I was introduced to an incredibly strong Maternal-Fetal Medicine (MFM) fellow in St. Louis, MO. During the four-week program, I was given a safe space to discuss and explore the sensitive topic of reproductive justice. I am grateful to have challenged my own beliefs and learned from an expert who fights fiercely for her patients. As a student doctor, now is the time to expand and further explore barriers in healthcare, such that the new generation may create progress and growth within the field.
As future physicians, medical students take the Hippocratic Oath, declaring that they will first do no harm. We are entering a career where trust between patient and physician is absolutely crucial. Without trust, the therapeutic relationship we strive for crumbles. Physicians play an important role in advocating for our patients utilizing evidenced-based medicine. However, on a regular basis, legislators insert themselves between the physician and patient by politicizing medicine and limiting our abilities to practice full-spectrum standard of care. Trust is broken and harm is done.
Physicians help patients navigate a complex medical journey and make the best possible decision for themselves and their families. As training physicians, we should demand full-spectrum education in order to confront our biases, morals, and ethics, so that we can best care for our patients. This includes reproductive rights. Much of the education regarding reproductive rights we receive during our didactic training is inadequate and unstandardized between institutions, due to legislation that prohibits this training, which changes state-to-state. Without the opportunity to fully explore reproductive rights we will be ill-equipped to care for patients seeking this care in the future.
Medical schools across the nation must insert reproductive health topics, including contraception, sexual education, and abortion into an equitable curriculum to discuss issues in medicine in a comprehensive and unbiased manner. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine, and Society for Family Planning have made it clear that access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion, is fundamental to healthcare. However, I have found myself eager for more on this topic at my medical school and I am sure I am not alone.
As medical students, we should be infuriated that we are not being taught all aspects of medicine equally due to the political agenda of legislators. Unfortunately, medical school can feel all-consuming, with students tirelessly working to learn didactic content to pass boards, and the time and funds to spend on reproductive justice are mostly absent. This means it is up to us students to expand our knowledge and fight for education. Although cliched, it is up to us to be the change and action that we preach.
I am extremely grateful to AMSA for giving students an opportunity to learn from mentors in the field of reproductive healthcare so as to compliment my medical school training. Upon moving to a southern medical school, whose mission is to care for healthcare needs of the Mississippi Delta region, I have gained insight into many health disparities and vulnerable populations. When I wrote my medical school personal statement essay, I focused on the topic of using my voice to amplify the voices of those who have been silenced or negated. I am hopeful I can use my voice and platform to improve the reproductive healthcare curriculums for other medical students. In addition, I now have a starter set of tools to learn how to be an effective physician advocate, such that I can learn to speak up for my future patients’ needs. I want to strive to become as fierce of a leader as my mentor and all of the incredible doctors actively fighting for reproductive justice.