Learn About —
and Report on —
Health Care Policy
THE ABILITY OF P&S STUDENTS TO JUGGLE MULTIPLE responsibilities is legendary.
Most students complement their medical studies with musical performances, theatrical productions, volunteer work, and/or rugby competitions, all while enjoying New York City and maintaining full personal lives.
Among the multitaskers is a group of students who started a health care policy newsletter to learn more about the government and industry forces shaping the medical profession and to help their classmates keep up with the changing policy and political landscape.
The newsletter, Health Care Policy & News for Students or "Health Care P&S" for short, debuted in Winter 2003 as a collaborative effort of the P&S chapters of the American Medical Student Association and the American Medical Association.
The inaugural issue included an article on regulation of resident work hours plus AMA and AMSA perspectives on the regulations.
A lawsuit surrounding the residency match process was summarized and analyzed and the addition of a clinical skills assessment test to the national boards was described. Later issues included discussion of the role of the pharmaceutical industry in health care, the importation of prescription drugs from Canada, the Medicare drug benefit debate, the disparity in health coverage for Latinos, insurance coverage and tax credits, medical malpractice trends, and physician involvement in politics.
Q&As with Thomas Frieden'86, the New York City health commissioner, and Alan Berkman'71, a public health faculty member with a long history of social activism, also have been featured.
In addition to exposing fellow students to important policy issues in medicine, the students who created the newsletter wanted to develop skills in research, analysis, and publishing on health policy issues.
"We try to provide a balanced perspective on the issues," says Mucio (Kit) Delgado'06, one of the students who started the newsletter.
"In our Cover the Uninsured issue, we presented different strategies for increasing health insurance coverage such as providing tax credits vs. incrementally increasing existing coverage."
The newsletter has fall, winter, and spring issues and is financially supported by the P&S Club and AMA and AMSA chapters.
The Center for Bioethics also helps with funding and will sponsor the next newsletter.
The newsletter staff originally wanted to distribute the publication to all students and faculty at the medical center, but budget constraints have limited the distribution to P&S students via student mailboxes and a few faculty members.
The newsletter staff — Mr. Delgado, Pravien Khanna'06, Emily Rothbaum'06, Ruth Gerson'07, Ilana Katz'07, Aaron Lord'07, and Anjail Sharrief'07 — meets to discuss the next issue's focus and divide assignments.
Every staff member reviews all the drafts, which are researched through journal articles, newspaper articles, and interviews.
Ms. Gerson does the layout and production work. Ross Frommer, director of government and community affairs, offers informal advising and editing on the newsletter.
Founding newsletter staff members were Megan Patrick'05 and Kumar Dharmarajan'06.
"We started the newsletter because we believed that professionalism in medicine extends beyond the clinical setting," says Mr. Dharmarajan.
"Physicians must be engaged with the larger healthcare issues that profoundly affect the resources and opportunities available to our patients.
Being educated is a necessary first step, and that's where Health Care P&S fits in."
The founding and current newsletter staff members hope to make the newsletter a permanent vehicle for discussing health care policy proposals and ideas.
A faculty advisory board is being considered as a way to ensure continuity once the current newsletter staff members move on.
Making the newsletter available online is another goal.
"The hardest part of undertaking a project like this is creating the infrastructure to make it sustainable," says Mr. Delgado.
The newsletter's appearance has changed dramatically since its inaugural issue.
"I did the layout for the first three or four issues with no experience, then Ruth Gerson took over and made a dramatic improvement using her experience in publishing a magazine as an undergrad at Harvard," says Mr. Delgado.
The newsletter staff members also describe the editing as a challenge.
Emily Rothbaum, who has a part-time job as an editor, lent her skills to the task.
"All of our articles definitely benefitted form her experience," says Mr. Delgado.
"Learning how to build on everyone's strengths is key in making a good product.
In the end you learn you have a creative side that's suppressed behind all the rote memorization of the first two years of medical school."