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MARCH 20, 2001
9:38 AM
CONTACT:  American Medical Student Association
Tim Clarke Jr.703-620-6600 x207 or 703-732-7021 (mobile); Email:
Medical Student Activism, Health Disparities Crisis at Center of 51st Annual Meeting of American Medical Student Association
RESTON, VA - March 20 - More than a quarter of the population in the Los Angeles area is uninsured. Indigent populations in California, along with ethnic and racial minorities, face more severe health problems than privileged populations.

California's health care infrastructure -- the safety net -- is stretched to the breaking point. At the same time, the nation's medical schools are not admitting enough minorities to create a diverse workforce for the future and fail to train future physicians to be culturally sensitive to an ever-diverse patient population.

These issues and others will be addressed at the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) 51st Annual National Convention, set for March 28-April 1 at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, Calif. The theme of AMSA's convention is "Take the Challenge! Student Action for Zero Health Disparities." Nearly 2,000 premedical and medical students, international medical students, residents and interns, physicians (including AMSA alumni), and other activists from across the country will gather for five days of innovative workshops, inspirational keynote addresses and organizational policymaking.

AMSA was founded in 1950 to provide medical students a chance to participate in organized medicine. In the 1960s, the association refocused its energies on the problems of the medically underserved, inequities in our health-care system and related issues in medical education. Since 1968, AMSA has been a fully independent, student-led organization.

AMSA continues to be an activist organization, with its members providing more than 1 million person-hours of community service every year. Over 300,000 physicians began their medical careers by participating in AMSA programs, and many of those activist students have moved on to become leaders within the medical community. For more than 30 years, AMSA has been dedicated to the principle that health care is a basic human right.

Keynote Addresses

"Besides the very interesting and stimulating seminars and workshops, we are thrilled to have a great slate of speakers," said Sindhu Srinivas, M.D., AMSA's national president (2000-2001). Keynote speakers will include: Christopher Elias, M.D., founder of Programs for Appropriate Technology in Health (Wed., 3/28); Rear Admiral Kenneth P. Moritsugu, M.D., M.P.H., U.S. Deputy Surgeon General, (3/29); Neil Shulman, M.D., author of 'Doc Hollywood,' which was made into a motion picture with Michael J. Fox (Fri. 3/30); local Los Angeles U.S. Representative Maxine Waters (Sat., 3/31); and America Bracho, M.D., a Santa Ana physician and founder of Latino Health Access (Sun., 4/1).

"Eliminating Health Disparities: A Challenge for Us All."

As part of AMSA's national convention, a series of plenary sessions will be held debating and discussing various aspects of the larger issues of universal health care and disparities in health care. The four sessions will feature experts from various fields to present informative and serious discussions with convention attendees.

-- Faces of Medicine: A Mirror for Medical Students: Medical students representing a broad cross-section of the underrepresented groups spectrum-women, disabled, ethnic and racial minorities, and gay, lesbian and bisexual students -- will introduce and discuss different disparities, biases and interactions that occur within medicine during the first plenary session scheduled for March 30, at 11:00 a.m.

-- Fair Practices: Patient Protections: Dr. Quentin Young, one of the nation's foremost health reform activists, will moderate a panel of patients from different local California communities discussing their own experiences and interactions with physicians and the health care system during the second plenary session set for Friday, March 31, at 1 p.m. Dr. Young will then lead an interactive discussion about the importance of universal access to health care in the fight to eliminate health disparities.

-- Affirmative Action: Will it Stay or Fade Away? The issue of recent drawbacks on affirmative action policies and the impact on admissions to medical schools will be addressed during a plenary session set for Saturday, March 31, at 11:30 a.m.

-- Eliminating Health Disparities: Making it Happen: Dr. Nathan Stinson, director of the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will lead a discussion about the emerging realities of health disparities in our nation and the necessity for medical student activism during the fourth and final plenary session set for Sat., March 31, at 2:30 p.m.

Convention Programming

The program also includes many other workshops and seminars for those attending the convention. "With titles ranging from 'Finding Synergy Between Relationship-Centered Care and the Striking Progress of Biomedical Science and Technology' and 'The Black Biomedical Research Movement: An Effort to Develop a Functional Relationship between Medical Professionals and their Black Patients' to 'Update on the Tobacco Wars' and 'No Free Lunch: The Physician-Pharmaceutical Company Relationship'" Srinivas says, "there will be numerous panels, discussion groups, focus groups, and clinical skills sessions during the five days of this convention that will enlighten, inspire and complement traditional medical education."

AMSA's House of Delegates

As AMSA's official policy-making body, the House of Delegates is a delegation of AMSA members from each local medical chapter who meet once a year at the Annual Convention to vote on AMSA's policies and to elect national officers. The HOD is open to all members of AMSA to speak and vote. Members debate the issues, make amendments and cast votes that shape AMSA's policies. Most importantly, any member of AMSA has the right to write and submit resolutions to the House of Delegates. This year, AMSA's HOD will debate policies on issues such as collective bargaining and physician unionization, pass-fail grading at medical schools and tuition concerns, and the use of non-violent direct action as a strategy for activism.

Exhibit Hall

One of the highlights of AMSA's 51st Annual National Convention is the 100-booth exhibit hall. Exhibitors include: book publishers, specialty societies, residency training programs, test preparation services, medical device companies and advocacy organizations. There are no designated areas for specific groups, so expect a good mix of product and service exhibitors that medical student attendees can tap for many of their needs.

National Awards

On March 20, at 9:30 a.m. (approx. preceding Dr. Moritsugu's address), AMSA will recognize The University of Southern California (USC) School of Medicine for their commitment to admitting a diverse medical student population, in response to the troubling crisis in America regarding health disparities faced by racial and ethnic populations. At the same time, the nation's medical schools are failing to admit enough underrepresented minority students and incorporate cultural competency training in order to best serve our ever-diversifying population. In response to these twin dilemmas, AMSA created this "model school recognition" to highlight and distinguish a medical school that is exemplary in the area of admitting a diverse medical school population to serve their community.

On Friday, March 30, at 9 a.m., AMSA will honor Helen Davies, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania College of Medicine, with its 2001 National Golden Apple for Teaching Excellence Award. AMSA established the local Golden Apple Award many years ago to give AMSA chapters an opportunity to honor excellence in medical teaching at their schools. Because of its increasing popularity, AMSA established a medical teaching excellence award on the national level. The National Golden Apple Award recognizes a medical professor whose exemplary teaching achievements advances the profession of medicine and contributes to the educational welfare of medical students. Nominations are made and reviewed entirely by medical students.

On Saturday, March 31, at approximately 10 a.m. (following an address by Rep. Maxine Waters), AMSA will award the 2001 Paul R. Wright Excellence in Medical Education Award to the University of Florida College of Medicine for excellence in the integration of end-of-life/palliative care education into the medical education curriculum. This is AMSA's most prestigious award, named after its current executive director. AMSA established the PRW Award to annually recognize a medical school, chosen by the nation's medical students, whose exemplary achievements in medical education best foster the development of socially responsive physicians. Each year, the area of concentration reflects a different dimension of medical education.

On Sunday, April 1, at 11 a.m., AMSA, along with the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association will present the 3rd Annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgendered (LGBT) Health Achievement Award to the Sexual Orientation Medical Awareness (SOMA) and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual People in Medicine (LGBPM) groups at the University of Pennsylvania College of Medicine. AMSA and GLMA established the LGBT Health Achievement Award to recognize a medical school, student group or individual student for exemplary achievement in promoting the inclusion of LGBT health issues or concerns within medical school.

Media Information

Members of the media are welcome to attend any AMSA convention events. Media must check in at the AMSA registration booth for complimentary press credentials and a program, then must check-in with Tim Clarke Jr., AMSA director of public relations, for more information. For more information, please contact Clarke at 703-620-6600, ext. 207 (before 3/24) and via mobile phone 703-732-7021 (after 3/24).


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