Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, University of Maryland President Jay A. Perman, MD, and more than 40 medical students and faculty members traveled to Annapolis on Jan. 25, 2012 to speak with members of the Maryland General Assembly about issues of importance to the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
In face-to-face meetings with lawmakers, students discussed loan repayment assistance programs, funding for scholarships and infrastructure projects including a new research building, the problem of physician shortages, and the positive impact the School of Medicine's research success has had on state revenue.
House Speaker Michael E. Busch kicked off the day, joining the students for breakfast to thank them for their participation in the political process. Then the students split into groups to visit with as many lawmakers as they could. "It went well," says second-year student Jeff Zapora. "Overall, it was a really good learning experience, and very interesting to see how things work in our state capital."
The lawmakers were happy to have the students come for a visit. "You see consequences of not having good health care, the impact it has on families, the impact it has on hospital rates," said Senator Thomas Middleton, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, who spoke with medical students over lunch. "But not everybody down here is aware of that. So it is important that you are down here meeting with your legislators so that they can understand this component and how critical you all are to our health care delivery system."
"I think it's really great," said Shannon Serlemitsos, a first-year medical student. "I have taken a couple policy courses before - public policy and health law - but it is really interesting and valuable to see firsthand a side of the system that I would not get to see otherwise. Also, it's encouraging that the administration here wants us to make the most of our medical education outside of just the hospital setting."
"Legislative day is a wonderful opportunity for our students and our faculty to thank legislators for their support, and share with them the exciting things that are happening on our campus, said Reece. Perman also offered encouraging words to the medical students. "When I went to medical school we did not learn how to advocate for our profession, we didn't learn to advocate for our educational needs, so you all are very fortunate."
"I have no background in this kind of thing, so it's really exciting to come here and see how it all works and to have them listen to what we have to say," said Jennifer Redd, a second-year student. "It's great that the school gives us the opportunity to get involved in these kind of events."
"We're very proud of you," Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. told the medical students. "We hope you continue your education, and we hope you stay in Maryland. We will continue to work on the loan assistance program to try and help. Sometimes it takes a long time to make good policy happen. But this is good policy. You are one of our most precious resources, and we need you to stay here in Maryland."