Medical Student Perspectives: How to be an Active Leader of your School's Internal Medicine Interest Group
I meet many medical students at various ACP-sponsored meetings who are full of lofty goals which they intend to accomplish-once they graduate from medical school, that is. Most of them are surprised to find out there is much to be done on the local level even as medical students. It is a valuable exercise to learn how to energize your school's internal medicine interest group (IMIG) and thereby learn the skills necessary to be a productive physician.
Communication is the very foundation of a successful IMIG. Hold a group activity planning session and be sure the planned activities are varied to address different student interests. Send out monthly, informative e-mails to your classmates. Monthly e-mails will allow your IMIG to become a constant student presence and let students know that the IMIG is a useful resource for information pertaining to internal medicine and ACP. IMIG leaders should be in touch with faculty leaders at their school as well as their local ACP Chapter Governors. Contact information for your ACP Chapter Governor can be found on ACP Online. On your ACP Chapter web site, you can find out about local meetings where students can present abstracts as well as various networking opportunities within your region. You can also find information about your ACP Chapter student leader and contact him or her to learn more about what types of student-centered activities are being sponsored by ACP in your area.
Attending meetings is the best way to introduce yourself to important Chapter leaders. Long-term ACP members are always impressed when they meet young medical students who are passionate about internal medicine. Chapter meetings happen throughout the year, depending on the individual region, and you can find information about your ACP Chapter's annual meeting on the Chapter web site. As a student leader, these meetings are useful to learn about the current issues of interest to ACP as well as to voice your concerns as a medical student. ACP leaders are interested in the student perspective on medical student debt and loan opportunities. They are also interested in knowing about the barriers that keep medical students from ultimately applying to work in primary care. Often ACP Chapter Governors have the budgetary means to send interested students to regional and even national meetings. If you find that opportunities are available, offering them to members of your IMIG is an easy way to develop excitement amongst your classmates about internal medicine and ACP. ACP Leadership Day is one such opportunity. Leadership Day is an annual ACP event in Washington, D.C., and each year many medical students apply for grant funding to attend the event. As an IMIG leader, it is your responsibility to let IMIG members know if funding opportunities are available. Attending meetings and keeping constant communication with Chapter leaders will keep you abreast of all of the wonderful opportunities available to medical students through ACP.
Once you have forged important relationships with ACP leaders and school faculty, it is important to use those resources wisely. Try to organize free clinics or organize groups to regularly volunteer in established clinics within the area. These volunteer opportunities will appeal to medical students who wish to have additional clinical experience and will have the added benefit of exposing students to ACP as well as the importance of primary health care. The hardest thing about organizing such events is knowing who to contact. Being active within your ACP Chapter and networking with doctors who may already be involved with community outreach activities will make it much easier to create these opportunities for your fellow students. At the end of the day, students, physicians, and patients will be extremely grateful for your efforts to create meaningful service opportunities for everyone involved.
If you need help, all Council of Student Members (CSM) representatives are more than happy to speak with medical students. Our contact information can be found on ACP Online. IMIG leaders should register with ACP in late summer to qualify for funding to help with activities at your school. As a student leader, you have the advantage of immediate access your classmates, and the more information you can disseminate about internal medicine activities, the more students can benefit from the plethora of resources provided by the ACP.
It can be daunting to lead a student interest group when there are so many other responsibilities and obligations to attend to. However, reinvigorating your IMIG is not only helpful in the short term, but it also leaves a strong legacy for the future IMIG leaders in your school. Leading a successful and active IMIG at your school will also serve as a springboard to become a successful leader within the field of internal medicine later in your career.
Lavanya Viswanathan, MS, 2LT, USAF
Vice Chair, Council of Student Members
Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences