The Kansas City, Mo., metropolitan area has three medical schools, but students at each rarely have the opportunity to interact with one another, says David G. Reid, OMS II. Reid began attending the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences’ College of Osteopathic Medicine in the fall of 2011. More than a year later, he realized that he hadn’t met any of the students from the area’s two other medical schools, the University of Kansas (KU) School of Medicine and the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) School of Medicine.
Reid and a few of his classmates brainstormed ways to encourage collaboration between the area’s osteopathic and allopathic medical students. What developed were the Kansas City Young Physician Advocates, an advocacy group, and “Your Health Talk,” a health care news and commentary podcast and magazine run by medical students.
The DO recently chatted with Reid about these projects, his visions for them and how students at other schools can start similar ventures. Here’s an edited version of the conversation.
You started “Your Health Talk” with the idea to provide a forum where DO students and MD students could work together. Why is this important?
I thought there should be more opportunities for medical students to get together and talk about what we’re going through and what we’re learning. It’s not healthy to stay isolated with just the people who have had the exact same experiences that you have. MD students have different perspectives on what medical students are going through. We wanted to create an outlet where we could talk about what we were interested in and what we were doing, but also hear from other students who are in our same position but have different views and backgrounds.
So “Your Health Talk” is a collaboration between students at the three medical schools?
It will be soon. When we were getting started, we stayed small just with students from KCUMB-COM. Next week, we’ll be extending an invitation to medical students from KU and UMKC as well. And part of the reason we came to Washington, D.C., for DO Day was to meet people from other DO schools who might be interested in contributing as well.
In what capacity do you see students from other osteopathic medical schools contributing?
If they want to write for our website, they certainly can. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a scholarly researched article. It could be an opinion piece or a blog post. This would be an easy way for students to contribute. Write it, send it to us, and we’ll be happy to look at it and post it.
If students want to step it up and do some audio recordings and make their own podcast-style interviews, they’re more than welcome to do that, and we could lend equipment to them if they needed it.
I really envision, one day, having yourhealthtalk.org be the main hub, but also having yourhealthtalk.org/philadelphia or yourhealthtalk.org/chicago, and so on. To have groups of students in other cities working together on our same mission, and they could have their own pages.
How often do osteopathic and allopathic medical schools collaborate on projects like this? Do you see this as a bridge to bring them together that may not be there right now?
I do. DOs and MDs are becoming more intertwined. For instance, there’s the proposed combined accreditation process for residency programs, and DOs are playing more important and more vital roles in health care. One of the executives of Dartmouth Medical Center is a DO.
If we can start some initiatives such as “Your Health Talk” to start getting in contact with each other earlier, we will be even more likely to collaborate later and work together in a more efficient and more cordial way. They may help in particular in places such as the East Coast where DOs and MDs are less integrated.
Does an opportunity already exist for DO and MD students to correspond and collaborate? Yes, it does, in more broad and general groups, such as the American Medical Student Association or the American Medical Association. But those organizations are so big you can get lost. “Your Health Talk” will be a very direct way for motivated students from both allopathic and osteopathic medical schools to collaborate.
“Your Health Talk” covered DO Day on Capitol Hill, and your team interviewed Rep. Phil Roe, MD, R-Tenn., and Rep. Jim McDermott, MD, D-Wash. What did you learn from them?
They made it clear that they understand our concerns about graduate medical education and the Medicare sustainable growth rate formula. They are physicians, and they are always going to be innately pro-physician. We also learned that people on the Hill understand our issues and want to help us. As long as we keep coming to them and showing them that we are the constituents and we are the ones who are voting for them, they are going to be more likely to vote in a way that helps our profession.
In these and other DO Day meetings, lawmakers would consistently say something like, ‘We have to go back and explain our decisions and our records to our constituents.’ In a lot of cases, the constituents want politicians to spend less money. And that makes it difficult to spend more money on GME. We learned that it’s a good idea for us, as medical students and physicians, to talk to our patients and our families and friends and explain why it’s so important to spend that money. In this way, we can help the constituents understand and perhaps gather more support for legislation that creates more residency positions. It’s not all on us, but we can help, and that’s something we took away from the meetings.
Speaking of advocacy, you also run another group, the Kansas City Young Physician Advocates (KCYPA), that seeks to promote conversation between students from the city’s DO and MD schools.
That’s right. We have people from the KU and UMKC medical schools joining us monthly for meetings with local professionals who have an interest in health care policy and health care advocacy, be they lawyers or professors or physicians. We get about 20 to 30 students every month to go to dinner and listen to a casual presentation. Our next speaker will be Denise Dowd, MD, a pediatric emergency room physician who is a big advocate of children’s safety initiatives.
My classmates from KCUMB-COM and I started both Your Health Talk and the KCYPA. We then reached out to medical students at KU and UMKC. So they see us, the DO students, as the de facto leaders in this effort. And we hope to help other osteopathic medical students start young physician advocate chapters around the country. This stuff is new enough that DO students can be the acting leaders in policy discussions among medical students where they live. It’s such an informal and easy thing to do. You just have to spend a little bit of time making a list of interested people from other schools and reaching out. It’s a great way to network and make new connections that you really wouldn’t have otherwise.
What advice would you give to fellow students who may be interested in starting similar projects at their schools?
If they are interested in doing what we’re doing, they can join us. We already have an infrastructure. We can help you get off the ground. And if they are starting a new project that requires its own infrastructure, then I would advise them to get help. Spend your initial efforts identifying your mission and finding support via your fellow students, your faculty and your administration. But don’t stop there. Reach out into the community. If there’s another medical school nearby, go to its student affairs department, and say, ‘I’d like to find students at your school that may be interested in this project. Can you send out this email to your students?’ This is how we started the young physician advocates, through other schools’ student affairs offices.