Students Visit Annapolis Lawmakers to Seek Their Support for Medical Education in Maryland
Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, and more than 40 medical students and faculty members traveled to Annapolis on Jan. 21, 2011 to speak with members of the Maryland General Assembly about issues important 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, the problem of physician shortages, and the positive impact the School of Medicine's research success has had on state revenue.
"It's important for these senators and delegates to meet our students," said Bruce Jarrell, MD, FACS, executive vice dean of the School of Medicine and professor of surgery. "Then they realize what a wonderful thing their support does, in terms of getting kids from all parts of the state, especially the underserved rural areas, to become physicians."
This support comes in the form of both funding for the School of Medicine and scholarships to individual students from their county and district senators and delegates. Students who benefitted from these scholarships had the opportunity to thank in person the lawmaker responsible for granting the money.
Legislators welcomed the students' stories about how much these funds helped their education, but they could make no promises regarding continued financial support during such bleak economic times.
Still, the students felt positive about their interactions with the lawmakers. "It's neat, they really stop and listen to the students," said third-year student Chris Lemon. "That says something about how much they value education."
"I feel like we're making progress in making the legislators aware of our needs and our accomplishments," added fourth-year student Molly Mulflur, who was back for the fourth time. "Every year it seems like they know a bit more about the kind of issues we're facing. So hopefully we'll see that pay off in money from the legislature in the coming year."
Students and faculty also were invited to the Senate and House chambers, where Dean Reece and the School of Medicine were officially recognized by Baltimore City Senator Verna Jones-Rodwell and Baltimore City Delegate Keiffer Mitchell Jr., respectively.
Later, the group had the opportunity to hear from Joshua Sharfstein, MD, secretary of the state Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, who discussed his new role as well as health care reform.
Ben Steffen, director of the Center for Information Services & Analysis at the Maryland Health Care Commission, also spoke about health care reform and the emergence of patient-centered medical homes, doctors' offices that patients could come to for all their medical needs, with special emphasis being put on preventive medicine.
"It was a lot of fun," said second-year student Ian Oppenheim, who was attending Legislative Day for the first time. "I got to meet most of the senators and delegates from my county and get the word out about the school. I think that we enlightened them."