By Emma York, OMS-II, Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine – Virginia Campus
Growing up 20 miles south of the nation’s capital instills a political savviness in your blood. It isn’t the water we drink, the food we eat. or the air we breathe in the beloved DC, Maryland, and Virginia area, but rather the proximity to those making decisions that affect the entirety of our lives that makes many of us from the region gravitate toward political involvement. Day in and day out, politics surrounded me, but then I moved some 280 odd miles to the tip of Southwest Virginia for medical school at Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM). I no longer had the Capitol in my backyard or heard political talk at surrounding tables in restaurants where I ate, but the draw to policy, now in particular to health care policy, still runs in my veins.
As a medical student it is nearly impossible to be involved in every club, so you must choose the ones that are the most intriguing to you and align the most with your interests. For me, becoming an ED to MED Campus Ambassador fit everything I wanted in a position: a creative outlet with the freedom to plan campus events focused on the political issues that matter most to students. It was the perfect opportunity to combine my political drive with my goal of helping medical students become more involved in politics. As an ED to MED Campus Ambassador, I created the “DO the Vote” event for my campus. In 90 minutes, 53 first- and second-year students applied for absentee ballots. Additionally, students received objective information about the VA governor candidates and important political issues. The greatest success was the number of students we encouraged to exercise their right to vote. As medical students, it is very easy to become sidetracked and forget to order your absentee ballot, but with this event we eliminated that issue for VCOM students!
My favorite part about the ED to MED Campus Ambassador role is how easy it has made staying up-to-date on current political issues, enabling me to encourage other students to activate their political voices. Medical students are directly affected by many of the bills being passed, denied, and reformed in Congress. Recently, there has been a lot of movement in Congress on bills that affect how students pay for their medical education. This is exceptionally important to me, because without the loans I have been allotted through the federal government, including Direct Stafford Loans to cover my cost of tuition and Grad PLUS loans to cover my living expenses, I would be unable to chase the goal and dream I have had since high school of becoming a physician. I believe it is exceptionally important for students to stay up-to-date on bills affecting their medical school career in order to understand exactly where their finances are coming from, how they will be impacted by new legislation, and how to minimize their student debt to maximize their careers as physicians.
With knowledge comes power, and that is not limited to medical knowledge. Whether you are living in Washington, DC, or anywhere else across the country, don’t ignore the political climate we live in; embrace it and use it as motivation to activate your political voice as an ED to MED Campus Ambassador!
The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by AACOM.