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Internal Medicine Interest Group of the Month: University of Massachusetts Medical School

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After spending so much time in the classroom as first and second years, it's important for medical students to catch a glimpse of that light at the end of the tunnel. The lectures on physiology, biochemistry, and pathology will all help us become great physicians, but what type of physicians will we become? The ACP gives us the chance to see what a career in internal medicine or one of its subspecialties is like. The ACP has lots to offer, and at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMass), we felt it was important to make our Internal Medicine Interest Group's events appealing to our fellow students so they too could learn about the field. The UMass recipe for a well-attended ACP event is actually quite simple:

1. Entertaining, well-liked speakers. We chose physicians with whom students were familiar from classes, who were admired, and who were, above all, amusing. One of our speakers included a popular infectious disease doctor who, while wearing his distinctive bow tie, would review slides of numerous intestinal parasites, while also quizzing us on pop culture and classic 50's movies during his lectures. Another was a cardiologist who would always somehow incorporate cartoons of giraffes and photos of beach scenes into his lectures, while he helped us understand cardiac output and the pathophysiology of the heart. These doctors are committed to teaching and are willing to speak at our events. Students appreciate getting to know their favorite instructors on a more personal level and finding out why they chose their subspecialty, what they like and dislike about their field, and how they balance life and work.

2. An appealing advertisement for the event. First and second years are in class all day, so a little humor can really catch their attention. An example of one of our e-mails includes: "Cuénoud on Cardiology: Learn about the Wacky World of MedicineTM and how to pronounce that extra accent "é" thing on Cuénoud's name". The underlying message is that medicine is fun, and in order to be good at what we do, we have to enjoy it, no matter what level we are at in our training.

3. Good food. This seems obvious, but should never be understated. There are plenty of creative ways to break away from the traditional pizza or cafeteria pre-made sandwiches. Our school's student activities board struck some deals with local restaurants for catering, which helped keep costs reasonable. We were able to serve Indian food, an Italian spread, or make-your-own sundaes (ice cream as well as frozen yogurt to please everyone) at various events.

1 + 2 + 3 = a great student event! Of course, there are other components to maintaining an active group with successful events. The ACP faculty advisor at UMass, who is also the internal medicine clerkship director, was very approachable, friendly, and eager to help out in any way. The student leaders were all very involved in the activity planning and shared responsibilities well, each taking ownership of their role.

ACP events at UMass included a sign-up booth at the activities fair, which occurred during the first few weeks of school, an introductory meeting covering an overview of possible careers in internal medicine, and a series of subspecialty talks where students could hear more about the training, daily challenges, and lifestyles which accompany specific subspecialties. We also offered a panel discussion with fourth-year students who recently matched in internal medicine, giving students an idea of what the interview process entailed, and what makes an application appealing to residency directors. The group also arranged shadowing opportunities in the endoscopy suite and cardiac catheterization lab and held a raffle for a free copy of MKSAP for Students 2 for ACP members.

ACP leaders at UMass also have had the opportunity to get to know ACP leaders at the other Massachusetts medical schools (Tufts, Harvard, and Boston University), which allows us to share ideas and to work jointly on events like the Massachusetts Residency Fair. ACP leadership has been a lot of fun. It has also been a great opportunity to learn more about internal medicine and meet internal medicine physicians. And if you use the recipe provided above, planning a great event is really quite easy!

Lael Yonker
University of Massachusetts Medical School, 2007
E-mail: lael.yonker@umassmed.edu

Back to November 2005 Issue of IMpact

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