Student-Led Events Highlight Key Issues in Health Care

December 10, 2015

Many CUMC students spent their hours this fall outside the classroom, organizing events that reflected the passions driving their career choices. They broadened their understanding of topics such as health care reform, human rights, and new technologies, such as mobile diagnostic tools.

On Oct. 1, Medicare was a focus for many students across the nation, including those at CUMC. This date marked the #TenOne National Medicare-for-All Student Day of Action. In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the legislation that established Medicare, several CUMC organizations hosted a mini-symposium on universal health care. The program was led by the Mailman School of Public Health’s chapter of Students for a National Health Program and co-sponsored by the American Medical Association-MSS and American Medical Student Association chapters at P&S, and Partners in Health Engage NYC. Linda Fried, MD, dean of the Mailman School of Public Health, introduced the event and the presenters, including Katie Robbins, Mailman’14, director of the New York City metro chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program; Marva Wade, RN, vice president of the New York State Nurses Association; and Laura Boylan, MD, neurologist and adjunct professor at NYU School of Medicine. Students for a National Health Program chapters across the nation held similar events, including teach-ins, rallies, and vigils, to advocate for universal, single-payer health insurance.

Human rights work came into focus Nov. 7, when P&S hosted the 2015 Physicians for Human Rights National Student Conference. Students from across the country gathered to discuss the connections among medicine, economics, law, sociology, and humanitarianism. Experts led skill-based workshops on topics including transgender health, identifying potential victims of human trafficking, interviewing trauma survivors, the law-health relationship, and medical advocacy. Other sessions focused on timely issues such as health in America’s prisons and attacks on health care providers in Syria. The conference highlighted the work of the P&S Asylum Clinic, which provides pro bono medical evaluations to those seeking asylum in the United States.

Later that month, the American Medical Student Association chapter at P&S hosted a conference called “Humanity at the Heart of Health Care.” It was one of the association’s two national fall meetings and it included sessions on social justice in health care, empathic communication skills, and technology and compassionate care. Sayantani DasGupta, MD, a faculty member in narrative medicine, kicked off the conference with a presentation that explored innovative approaches to cultural competency training in medical education. Jessica Buesing, P&S’18, chapter president, noted that sessions on addressing structural racism in health care were particularly popular. “Students wanted to know more about how to participate in that fight,” she said.

Innovation took the stage on Nov. 20, when the P&S Innovative Medicine Interest Group hosted the second annual InnovateMED conference. The student group presented a TED-style event with leaders in health and medicine presenting brief, engaging talks. Samuel Sia, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering, discussed using microfluidics to build low-cost handheld devices to perform sophisticated medical tests on a microchip. He described how his research team developed a smartphone accessory that can perform a test that can, in just 15 minutes, detect three infectious disease markers from a finger prick of blood. Additional speakers included Geoffrey Ling, MD, PhD, founding director of the Biological Technologies Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and Kenneth Kamler, MD, an orthopedic microsurgeon who practices extreme medicine in remote regions of the world.