A Call to Arms for Medical Students in Healthcare Reform: An Expert Interview With Farheen Qurashi

Laurie Barclay, MD

April 07, 2010

April 7, 2010 — Editor's note: Medical students need to be proactive regarding healthcare reform and its potential effects on medical education, according to a presentation at the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) 60th Annual Convention, held from March 11 to 14 in Anaheim, California.

To learn more about the way medical students can prepare themselves for the changes that healthcare reform will bring, and the way students can best participate, Medscape Med Students interviewed presenter Farheen Qurashi, AMSA's Jack Rutledge Legislative Director. Ms. Qurashi is in her fifth year at the University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Medicine's 6-year combined degree program, where she is earning a Bachelor of Liberal Arts and a Doctorate of Medicine. She has worked in grassroots organizing with a local single-payer organization in Kansas City and for the Save Darfur movement. In addition, she is executive codirector of the Sojourner Health Clinic, her school's free health clinic.

Medscape: What is the take-home message from your presentation regarding healthcare reform?

Ms. Qurashi: My presentation was a timely discussion of provider issues in healthcare reform. It began as an overview but ended with an interactive Q&A session to answer members' pressing questions on healthcare reform. The key message was not necessarily concerning the details of reform, but the gravity of it, the different aspects involved, and the potential changes this legislation will bring — whether directly or indirectly, by opening the door to future reforms — to our profession.

It was an invitation to participate in further inquiries, and I hope it encouraged the participants to actively seek out answers to their questions and to become involved in shaping those answers in the future.

Medscape: What most caught your attention from the other material presented at the AMSA meeting?

Ms. Qurashi: Dr. Joe Greer [Pedro José Greer, Jr., MD, chair of the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine's Department of Humanities, Health & Society, Florida International University in Miami], a keynote speaker at this year's meeting, presented an involved and sometimes emotional provocation to physician advocacy –— a more emotional call to my more intellectual and informational one. Either way the message is delivered, it is key in our current political and healthcare climate.

Medscape: What do you regard as the greatest challenges facing medical students today?

Ms. Qurashi: The medical profession is changing and will continue to undergo change. The status quo in healthcare is being found to be inadequate, and we, as medical students, must challenge ourselves to become actively involved in the change that may shape our careers. Medical students are barraged with basic science and clinical information regularly, and we often lose site of the greater picture. It is now more important than ever that we are constantly aware of and become a part of that bigger picture, especially as we reshape our system to serve a growing number of patients in what is a skewed provider distribution system.

Medscape: How can students improve their awareness of changes in healthcare policy and their level of involvement in shaping these changes?

Ms. Qurashi: Speaking on the level of medical student involvement, organizations like AMSA are key. Medical organizations provide an avenue for education, advocacy, and training opportunities, as well as networking and professional resources that are not always available in a traditional medical education. Involvement in AMSA and other organizations will provide members with resources and support to pursue advocacy while allowing them to continue to develop as successful future physicians.

Medscape: What do you believe should be the direction of future medical education?

Ms. Qurashi: Medical education, and the institution of medicine itself, will need to take responsibility and help to find solutions for our nation's, and for the world's, healthcare crisis. Many of the institutional issues that damage our health system, including a shortage of physicians, unsustainable working requirements (such as excessive work hours), and inadequate training in the plights of underserved patients, leave our medical education system lacking. Tailoring medical education and culture to the needs of patients will help the education and professional system to create more effective physicians.

Medscape: What other research should be done to help determine and prioritize future needs?

Ms. Qurashi: Many of the needs and desires of medical students themselves are not adequately addressed because they are not known outside of medical organizations, like AMSA, which then serve to become an outlet for needs, such as serving the underserved and addressing global health aid. A comprehensive study of the needs and educational desires of future physicians could serve to be instructive in shaping future medical education.

Ms. Qurashi has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

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