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Internal Medicine Interest Group of the Month: Tufts University School of Medicine

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Over the past year-and-a-half, the Tufts University School of Medicine ACP-IMIG (Internal Medicine Interest Group) chapter has been in an exciting state of revival and growth. In the fall of 2005, then first-year medical students Brian Lee and Christopher Sales inherited the organization with little more than school funding and a club name; the chapter had been abandoned. There were no officers, no membership activities, and no faculty advisor associated with the IMIG. Membership numbers had dropped from an impressive 40% per class in 2002 to 8% in 2005. Internal medicine still led in the number of residency matches from Tufts in 2006, but the proportion had dropped to 22% of the graduating class.

Brian and Chris reasoned that the loss of student interest was in part due to a public image problem. Internal medicine was both misunderstood and poorly understood. Many students believed that the field of internal medicine was synonymous with the specialty of family medicine and/or exclusive to primary care. Few students knew of the diverse spectrum of subspecialties offered by internal medicine, and even those interested in fields such as cardiology and infectious disease were unaware that these subspecialties were branches of internal medicine. The gap between perception and reality needed to be addressed.

Talking to their peers also made it clear to Brian and Chris that students were just as interested in the intangibles of life as a practicing internist or subspecialist as they were about the respective clinical environments of these fields. Students wanted frank discussions about the pertinent questions never covered in class. For example, what are hours like during residency, and more important, what is life like as an attending? Why do physicians choose academic medicine over private practice? What is the pay like in both cases? What do primary care physicians and subspecialists love and hate about their respective medical practices? And how can teaching and research be incorporated into clinical practice?

Bearing in mind their peers’ concerns and the existing shortcomings of their IMIG, Brian and Chris devised a formula for sustained club interest and growth. Their strategic plan centered on building a core membership around talks that shed light on the diverse spectrum of clinical practices within internal medicine and addressed students’ questions about their future careers. With the help of a few dedicated students (Michael Silverman in particular) and a host of captivating speakers, Brian and Chris raised the public profile of the IMIG at Tufts and found themselves consistently filling their auditorium with first, second, and even third year medical students.

Last year’s focus was on addressing the public image problem of internal medicine. Activities included increasing interest in internal medicine and raising the profile of the IMIG on campus by scheduling subspecialty talks on infectious disease, interventional cardiology, and gastroenterology. The IMIG also cosponsored a residency panel and a talk given by Dr. Kassirer, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, on physician conflict of interest.

This year's continued efforts to raise awareness about internal medicine and the IMIG have doubled overall membership numbers and tripled the per class enrollment. The IMIG is now one of the largest student organizations on Tufts’ campus, and certainly among the most visible. Sessions have continued this year with subspecialty talks on cardiology and hematology/oncology. Speakers have highlighted key issues in the current medical zeitgeist, such as health care disparities. Other talks scheduled for the remainder of the year include critical care medicine, sports medicine, malpractice reform, and a residency panel. The IMIG has also started new activities to get students actively involved. Activities include a visit to a cardiac catheterization lab to participate in an interventional procedure demonstration for first and second year students and practicing clinical case presentations with the help of our faculty advisor and medicine clerkship director for third and fourth year students.

Brian and Chris, now joined by first-year co-chairs Craig Napolitano and Kinjalika Sathi, hope to continue the IMIG's growing momentum. Their mission will be to continue and build on the IMIG's activities, adding programs that will truly “add value” to IMIG membership. At the top of their new agenda are increasing and strengthening their partnership with the Department of Medicine at Tufts-New England Medical Center. A stronger bond with the Tufts-New England Medical Center will facilitate research collaboration between medical students and internal medicine faculty and also provide students with accessible mentoring opportunities. They also hope to open more opportunities for students interested in internal medicine to develop their clinical skills through adjunct tutorials given by Tufts faculty. Finally, Brian and Chris aim to introduce the Tufts IMIG onto the national scene by sending one of their talented members to Washington, DC in May 2007 to rub elbows with health care policy makers during ACP Leadership Day.

The Tufts IMIG has come a long way and indeed has a bright future. Its progress was due to funding and support from ACP and Tufts Student Council, as well as the guidance of Dr. Joseph Rencic and numerous guest speakers (particularly Dr. Jeffrey Kuvin), all of whom took time out of their schedules to support the IMIG's efforts. Most of all, the IMIG's success would not have been possible without the students at Tufts, whose exceptional professionalism and commitment to their careers have been the backbone of its growth.

Christopher Sales, M09
Brian Lee, M09
Craig Napolitano, M10
Kinjalika Sathi, M10
Co-Presidents Tufts ACP-IMIG
E-mail: christopher.sales@tufts.edu

Back to December 2006 Issue of IMpact

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