Our quest to focus on advocacy in this issue of Clinical Connections wouldn't be complete without talking to the clinical advocates: AUC's Clinical Student Government Association (CSGA).
CSGA members Elena Gueorguiev, representative for Danbury Hospital and Haider Naqvi, representative for the United Kingdom share why they joined the student organization and what initiatives they've championed thus far for AUC students.
What interested you most about joining the CSGA?
Haider: Being part of the SGA on the island and participating in multiple student groups and associations allowed me to help my fellow students setup fundraising and volunteering opportunities. Transitioning into clinical rotations, I wanted to do something on a similar scale. The CSGA has allowed me to be a voice for other student during clinicals and act as a bridge between the students and the school deans to continue to inform the student body about events and important information.
As medical students and future physicians, why do you think advocacy is important?
Haider: Advocacy allows everyone to have a say in a matter. Being part of the CSGA, I have been able to discuss matters that the school believes are important for our learning and also suggest new initiatives to help all present and future students.
Thinking about advocacy in healthcare, it can bring forth discussions that can help to establish better treatment protocols for all patients and at times for specific patients based on their circumstances.
Elena: Being an advocate for the patients that we care for is certainly one of the most fundamental aspects of being a healthcare professional. In my opinion, to be a successful advocate for your patient, you must begin by acknowledging the importance of being an advocate for their peers.
As a third year clinical medical student, I work amongst a vast and complex healthcare team comprised of many other medical students, nurses, residents, attendings, social workers, techs, phlebotomists, dieticians, physical therapists, all the way to the hospital caretakers, whose combined efforts and dedication ensures that our patients receive not only the necessary but finest possible supportive care and resources which they truly deserve. Each individual healthcare role is equally essential and each plays a vital role in the final care that our patients receive. It is for these reasons, and more, that healthcare professions all deserve to be acknowledged, valued, and supported by means of having others on their team as their advocate. When each of us succeeds, we all succeed together.
Elena Gueorguiev, third from the left, with AUC students and Danbury Hospital colleagues
As CSGA reps, what particular issues have you advocated for?
Haider: Personally, I’ve been working really hard to get the Becker Clinical Skills Assessment (CSA) program offered for students in the United Kingdom. There’s a possibility we’ll have that ready to go later in 2017 which would be a huge win.
The CSGA as a whole came together to advocate for a discounted subscription to UWorld. AUC students primarily use UWorld to practice for USMLE exams so getting that discount was a great contribution. And, having Dr. Joy Checa, Project Manager for Clinical Sciences, be our advocate in securing that discount through the school was invaluable.
Elena: Each month, the CSGA reps meet to discuss how things have been going at our respective clinical sites. Those meetings give me an opportunity to raise questions about scheduling upcoming exams and clinical site availability, and also address specific concerns/suggestions from my peers.
Recently, several of my colleagues expressed a desire to set up a mock Step 2 CS trial in Danbury hospital’s standardized clinical facility. I reached out to the head coordinators in charge as well as our amazing clinical education coordinator here, Laura Smith, to see what we could make happen. We are still working out the details but I hope this will come into fruition very soon and our students will be able to get some extra practice before they have to take the real exam.
I am also especially excited and proud of establishing a chapter here in Danbury, CT for an amazing organization called #HappyPeriod. For those not familiar with #HappyPeriod, it’s an organization that was started in California by Chelsea VonChaz, who recognized that there was a real need for not only raising donations to purchase feminine hygiene products to those less fortunate, but more importantly raising awareness about this issue which impacts so many women across our country and world. This, I might add is also thanks to another one of our amazing former CSGA reps, Dr. Nikole Czapp. I’m so excited to have the opportunity to take a role in expanding our AUC-affiliated chapters for #HappyPeriod and I hope I can do justice in following in my friend’s footsteps. Not only did Dr. Czapp introduce us to this organization but she also inspired so many of us to step up and become advocates as well. I hope in forming the chapter here in Danbury it will continue to inspire other students to get involved and become advocates.
>> Related: Nikole Czapp Helps Homeless Women Have a #HappyPeriod
Have you been able to develop or strengthen certain skills as a CSGA rep?
Haider: I would say I have been able to use the CSGA as a platform to enhance many skills that will help me in the future—top among them are teamwork and team building. I have also had the opportunity to better myself in a professional manner by communicating more frequently with AUC administrative leaders and deans. Discussing complex and sometimes sensitive matters with school leaders any my classmates has definitely strengthened my communication skills.
Elena: Being a part of CSGA has probably helped me in more ways than I can think of. For starters, I think it’s helped me become a better listener and it has pushed me outside of my comfort zone; for example, pointing out concerns others have had when I myself would have been reluctant to do so.
Since AUC clinical students are spread out across the country, in a way, they are all advocates for AUC. And in some ways, students are also advocates for international medical graduates (IMGs). That’s a lot of responsibility. What advice/tips can you give current and future clinical students to help them best represent themselves and their school?
Haider: AUC has truly provided its students vast opportunities to do our rotations all across the US and around the world. And that provides us as students an amazing opportunity to show our prowess as AUC students and IMGs to the rest of the medical profession. This can help to open many opportunities in the future if we present our best selves. I would advise current and future clinical students to always be professional, show up to rotations with enthusiasm, a willingness to learn, a positive attitude, and always wear a smile on your face. I truly believe this advice can and will be very beneficial for all just as I have seen it help me to date.
Elena: I really am a strong believer that if each of us succeeds, we all succeed together. I am proud to be an AUC medical student and I take even greater pride in all of our accomplishments. I think it’s important that we continue to hold ourselves to the highest level of professionalism as all of our actions reflect on the overall image of our university, whether it is good or bad.
I’m also very proud to be an AUC student because I’ve had the honor to learn alongside colleagues who are incredibly talented, driven, and push to persevere regardless of the barriers or obstacles we may endure as IMGs. I think this speaks to our character and the level of sincerity regarding our pursuit of a career in medicine. We really and truly care and want to help people, even if it means we have to jump through hoops to get there. AUC will continue to empower amazing physicians for many generations to come and we will continue to break down barriers by exercising our integrity, commitment, and determination.