Saturday, April 23, 2011

Policy Things I Think Are Interesting, Part II

1. Recently, I was talking to a fellow student about the new MSSNY policy to remove the exemption for off-shore students to get NYC clerkships. At one point, she said, That's all well and good, but what can MSSNY actually do about it? As I've mentioned before, AMA and MSSNY are advocacy groups that represent physicians' and medical students' interests. They have political action committees -- AMPAC and MSSNYPAC, respectively -- and those PACs have lobbyists to voice our concerns to state and federal government officials. The groups care about expanding health coverage for the uninsured, reforming medical liability, and graduate medical education. Is there something you care about? Join the Physicians Grassroots Network! As a member of "the leading voice for America's physicians in Washington DC," you have a hand in shaping the nation's health and health policy for the better. Get involved today!

2. Public Smoking Ban May Be Nationwide by 2020: It's a misleading title, actually. The CDC collected data on the trend of banning public smoking (in bars, restaurants, etc.) over 25 states in the last 10 years and extrapolated it -- if the trend continues, "the entire nation could have similar bans by 2020." This would be a great advancement, since second-hand smoking has dire health consequences, causing about 46,000 heart disease deaths and 3,400 lung cancer deaths in non-smokers each year. An issue, though, is southern states, of which none have public smoking bans in 2011. However, hope lies in the fact that individual communities have bans, and their sentiments might spread state-wide. There is especially an onus on state legislators in this region -- another reason to get involved with the AMA!

3. Telehealth Rated Top Medical Innovation: A survey of over 100 health sector leaders from around the world found that "technologies that combine data exchange with people-to-people interactions help enable easy, efficient, professional practices." This means electronic medical records and similar technology. The main benefits of telehealth, the study showed, was from increasing efficiency of the healthcare workforce and improving equitable access to care.

4. A New MCAT in 2015?: The AAMC has recommended a series of updates to the trauma-inducing MCAT that would be enacted in 2015 (if all the recommendations are adopted). The new and questionably improved test would have a stronger focus on cell/molecular biology, biochemistry, and social/behavioral sciences. The changes reflect the boon of research in the former fields since the MCAT was last completely revamped (ca. 1990) as well as the importance of ethics and cultural competency in medicine. The updates would also extend the test by another 90 minutes - yikes. Additionally, this would indirectly change pre-med requirements and force students to front-load more upper-level science classes into their college education.