Demonstrating your leadership skills as a medical student is important for getting into top residencies. Perhaps one of the more eye-catching ways to demonstrate your leadership skills as a medical student is to join an established and respected organization like the American Medical Association (AMA). The AMA is the largest professional association of physicians in the USA and has one of the top ten largest lobbying budgets of all US organizations. It has a large MSS (Medical Student Section) comprised of thousands of students separated into six regions based on the geographic location of their medical schools in the USA. Any medical student that is interested in leadership, policy, or advocacy should consider joining the AMA.
There are several opportunities to take on leadership roles in the AMA and get involved with advocacy work. At the local level, you can run to become your medical school’s AMA representative. Some of your primary duties will be staying abreast of current developments in the AMA, representing your medical school at AMA meetings, and recruiting more medical students at your medical school to join AMA. If your school does not have an AMA chapter, start one!
At the national level, you can apply to become a student member on the AMA Board of Trustees (which leads the entire AMA), the AMA Foundation (which handles its philanthropic enterprises), or AMPAC (AMA’s political action committee). You can apply to be on the eight-person MSS Governing Council, which directs the MSS programs and activities at the national level. Or you can join standing committees staffed by medical students around the nation that focus on various topics (e.g., Bioethics & Humanities, Economics & Quality in Medicine, Global & Public Health, Health Information Technology, Legislation & Advocacy, LGBTQ Issues, Long Range Planning, Medical Education, Scientific Issues, Community Service, House of Delegates Coordination, Membership Engagement and Recruitment, Minority Issues, Women in Medicine).
Other Perks of Joining AMA
Even if you are not interested in actively engaging with all these opportunities, passively joining the AMA as a medical student has several perks. For instance, you get 30% off USMLE test prep (e.g., Kaplan). You also get complimentary access to FREIDA Online (the AMA Residency and Fellowship database) and the JAMA network (digital, print, and podcast media related to the Journal of the American Medical Association). You can also fill in the “Professional Association Membership” section of your CV with another well-known acronym. You need to pay $68 in membership dues to secure these base benefits for all four years of medical school. Alternatively, you can pay $20 for one year and only pay for the years you would need the USMLE test prep and FREIDA Online access (i.e., your second and fourth year of medical school).
My AMA Journey To Date
I joined the AMA in my first year of medical school and paid dues for all four years of medical school, as this was the best deal. I first learned about the AMA when a classmate posted about an opportunity to go to an AMA conference in Washington, DC. This was the annual MARC (Medical Student Advocacy & Region Conference). This conference enabled me to meet with the offices of my senator and House representative on Capitol Hill and advocate for current issues on behalf of the AMA. I also got to attend talks and workshops that taught me the basics of advocacy and network with other medical students interested in advocacy. The MARC is an excellent and exciting introduction into what the AMA is all about and I would highly recommend attending it.
After attending MARC, I wanted to get more engaged with AMA. I ultimately applied for a number of standing committees and was accepted into the MERC (Membership, Engagement, and Recruitment Committee). I worked with a diverse group of medical students from schools around the country remotely to plan social media campaigns and develop programs for several conferences including MARC, the Interim meeting of the AMA, and the Annual meeting of the AMA.
Joining the AMA as a medical student has several clear benefits, including honing your leadership skills, forging relationships with other medical students that will be your future colleagues, and engaging in important advocacy work as part of an influential political organization. If you are looking for a high-yield opportunity to see what the AMA is all about and meet other medical students interested in advocacy, I would highly recommend attending the MARC as your introduction to AMA. If you enjoy the experience, you should definitely consider applying for leadership positions at either the local or national level. Even if you feel that you do not have enough time to commit to these activities, maintaining an AMA membership is cheap and has several practical benefits.