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Medical Student Comments about the 2013 CMA House of Delegates Meeting

Medical Student Comments about the 2013 CMA House of Delegates Meeting

It is not often that medical students are exposed to the legislative process of enacting health policy. However, as first year medical students at U.C. Davis School of Medicine, we were given the unique opportunity to attend the California Medical Association (CMA) House of Delegates convention in Anaheim from October 8-11 2013. The CMA is a professional organization representing California physicians with the overall mission of legislative, regulatory, economic and social advocacy. Their comprehensive goal is to support their members in navigating the increasingly complex challenges of practicing healthcare in a rapidly evolving society. The CMA House of Delegates (HOD) consists of over 400 physician that meet annually to deliberate resolutions and reports relating to a multitude of issues relating to medical practice, governance, health policy and patient advocacy.

The goal of the House of Delegates consists primarily of resolutions and recommendations submitted by delegations or by individual delegates. We learned that each item of business is assigned to a "reference committee," consisting of six members of the House. Subsequently, each reference committee conducts a hearing or meeting to receive testimony for or against proposed resolutions from other CMA members and delegates. The committee then formulates recommendations for action by the full House, which votes to adopt, reject, amend or refer (for further study or for decision by the Board of Trustees) each recommendation.

The reference committee meetings presented us with the exciting opportunity to voice our opinions on several issues deliberated in the Medical Student Section. We were particularly impressed by the quality and depth of some of the resolutions championed by other medical students from around the state. One of the more poignant resolutions advocated for California physicians to identify and refer minors at-risk for sexual exploitation to appropriate social services. It was very inspiring to see fellow student delegates from U.C. Davis successfully pass a resolution that will allow California medical schools greater autonomy in setting graduation requirements. Their success has motivated us to author our own resolutions in future conferences.

An important highlight was then attending the meetings of the full House of Delegates for the combined group caucus. There were controversial subjects that generated passionate debates, including the topic of single payer healthcare system. Nevertheless, the collegial and respectful atmosphere created a safe environment for all to debate amicably. As the conference proceeded, our familiarity increased as we gained a deeper insight into how physicians can impact health policy and patient care on a broader scale.

One of the best aspects of the weekend was the overwhelming support and warm reception we received from the physicians. Many of them expressed how important our participation as medical students were to the organization and the future of medicine. The networking contacts that we made will serve as a launching pad in our future involvement in health policy and advocacy as we progress through our medical education.

We returned to our school with renewed vigor and enthusiasm in recruiting our fellow classmates to take a more active interest in health policy. Our main objective is to engage and educate our student population about the numerous opportunities to get involved in the AMA and CMA. One of the most resounding lessons that we took away from the conference was the incredible scope of influence that we as medical students can have on policy during our medical and post-graduate education.

We would like to especially thank several individuals and organizations who made this experience possible. They include Dr. Darin Latimore, Dr. Richard Thorpe, Dr. Lee Snook, The CMA Foundation, the Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society (SSVMS) and the Office of Student and Resident Diversity at U.C. Davis School of Medicine.