American College of Physicians: Internal Medicine — Doctors for Adults ®

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How the College is helping its medical student members

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From the November ACP-ASIM Observer, copyright © 2002 by the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine.

By Sara E. Walker, MACP

At a recent meeting of the College's Michigan Chapter, I had an opportunity to discuss career choices with medical students from the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. While about two-thirds of the students said they found internal medicine highly interesting, most admitted they had not made up their minds about the future.

Does ACP-ASIM want medical students to take a serious look at internal medicine, especially general internal medicine? You bet. Attracting students to internal medicine is one of the College's highest priorities, and we are concerned that students are being turned off to the specialty before they know about its rewards.

To address the issue, the College recently convened a working group chaired by Regent Joel Levine, FACP. Its mission was to try to find a way to reverse an ongoing trend in which fewer students are choosing careers in primary care medicine. In its report, the group noted that many medical students think that life as a generalist provides few lifestyle or monetary rewards.

ACP-ASIM leadership has taken this report very seriously and is planning several initiatives to increase the attractiveness of a career in internal medicine.

Student membership

While those initiatives are in the planning stages, ACP-ASIM already has a program that offers medical students many free benefits. Students are invited to become members of the College in all areas where there is an ACP-ASIM chapter. The College created student membership in 1994 with the goal of providing information about the rewards of careers in internal medicine. Student membership has grown from around 3,500 in 1995 to almost 17,000 in 2002.

Students can join ACP-ASIM free of charge at any point in their education. All medical students are welcome, even if they are not committed to a career in general internal medicine or a subspecialty. Our hope is that some students who join during their formative years will stay with us for life!

To become College members, students can complete an online registration form. Within four to six weeks, they will receive a membership packet with a student membership number and a list of benefits.

Preceptorships and more

Externships provide an excellent opportunity for medical students to explore what the future holds for them if they choose internal medicine. ACP-ASIM chapters in Arizona, California, Delaware, Georgia, Missouri, New Jersey, North Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin offer clinical preceptorships for first- and second-year medical students.

Students work one-on-one with an internist preceptor to observe practice in inpatient and outpatient settings. Students also have a unique opportunity to explore the doctor-patient relationship.

Most preceptorship programs are run by ACP-ASIM Governors and provide a modest stipend. For more information, contact the College's Medical Student Coordinator Patty Moore at pmoore@acponline.org or 800-523-1546, ext. 2749.

The College gives its medical student members educational materials to help them get through their clinical clerkship in medicine with flying colors. IMpact, a free quarterly newsletter, provides illustrative medical cases as well as helpful survival tips. Student members get free online access to Annals of Internal Medicine and ACP Journal Club, as well as deep discounts on subscriptions to the print versions. The College also sells its books to students at a 20% discount, and it gives a 10% discount on all books ordered through the J. A. Majors online bookstore.

Student members who want to pursue a residency in internal medicine have access to the internal medicine residency directory database, which provides information on all internal medicine residency programs in the United States.

Important feedback

The College relies on students to tell us how we can make internal medicine more attractive. Much of the feedback we need comes through the Council of Student Members, which allows students to contribute directly to policy development.

Council members represent 10 regions of the United States and the armed services. Membership on the College's governing bodies allows council leaders to give input at the highest levels.

Julie Ake, ACP-ASIM Medical Student Member, who attends the University of Washington School of Medicine, chairs the 2002-2003 council and is a voting member of the Board of Regents. Vice-chair Karen Hsu, ACP-ASIM Medical Student Member, from the University of Iowa, sits on the Board of Governors. The College also benefits from contact with individual students who attend ACP-ASIM meetings. Student members can attend regional meetings and Annual Sessions free of charge, and a number of activities at our national meeting are designed just for students.

The Medical Student Abstract Competition provides an opportunity for students to display research projects, and the annual medical student mentoring breakfast promotes open discussion between medical students and practicing internists.

I hope the students I spoke with at the Michigan Chapter meeting took my advice and joined ACP-ASIM. I hope they will enjoy the opportunity to communicate with internists, and to learn more about careers in internal medicine.

If you are a medical student who is not an ACP-ASIM member, please join us!

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