7:00AM. The city of Philadelphia was slowly waking up to its morning bustle as we approached the expansive convention center. A green banner triumphantly displayed “Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)” across the hall while our name badges on the table below announced “The University of Vermont College of Medicine.” We were finally here, in a sea of prim suits and intermingling conversations, representing our school in a national forum of ideas.
The AAMC is a medical association that brings together the nation’s educators, medical care providers, researchers and students to improve the current standard of health care. As the class representatives for the AAMC Organization of Student Representatives, Peter Wingfield and I had a chance to delve into discussions with students hailing from institutions across the country, including University of Arkansas, Ohio State, SUNY Upstate, Mayo Clinic, Rutgers, University of Pennsylvania, Louisiana State, Michigan State, University of Oklahoma, New York Medical College, University of Nevada, Johns Hopkins, UCSF, and many others. Focusing on the topics of medical education and patient care, the AAMC forums are designed to help participants identify current issues – and communicate new ideas and methods used by various institutions.
I discussed in one group the effective use of technology in clinical care and education. We all know that the latest technologies have their benefits and drawbacks in the delivery of health care. How can medical schools prepare students to better adapt to the changing digital environment? How does this impact the patient-centered system? After listening to numerous schools describe how their curriculum was designed, I began to realize that UVM and its curriculum is truly beyond the standards at other schools. UVM has a clinically-dominant training concept, where students are given the opportunity very early to interact and apply classroom knowledge in a realistic patient-centered model. The early introduction to clinical skills, interviewing, SOAP notes, and EMR is often lacking in many schools, and the representatives were amazed to learn that we were exposed to such integration so early in our foundation years. Our group decided that this may be the key to preparing us for our clinical experiences and years as a physician. Establishing efficient clinical technique early will give us the tools to incorporate technology and deliver care of the highest quality.
It was an enriching experience to have so many passionate individuals coming together – individuals who took an interest in transforming health care, education, the future of our patients. After the discussions, several students from other schools asked to keep in touch and stay in conversation about proposing changes at our own schools. Gauging my current clinical experiences through our curriculum, some fellow students asked what year I was in before we left.
“Are you a third-year medical student?” Nope. “A fourth year?” Not yet.
“I am a second-year medical student at University of Vermont College of Medicine,” I answered. I think that said it all.