Page 19 - Volume 69 Number 2
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Medical Student Forum with Gubernatorial Candidate
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed
By Jonathan McBride and Apoorv Dhir
University of Michigan Medical students recently played host to Dr. Abdul El-Sayed who an- nounced earlier this year that he was running to become the Democratic Party candidate for governor in 2018. Dr. El-Sahed is a 32-year-old former Rhodes scholar and professor of Public Health. He earned his medical degree from Columbia University and was appointed executive director of the Detroit Department of Health
& Wellness Promotion in 2015. He resigned that post to run for the state’s highest office. He is an internationally recognized expert in health policy and health inequali- ties and the author of over 100 articles, abstracts, and book chapters on public health policy, social epidemiol- ogy, and health disparities. His essays on public health policy have also been published in the New York Times, CNN, the Hill, The Huffington Post, the Detroit News, and the Detroit Free Press.
Dr. El-Sayed’s appearance was arranged by the student group, White Coats for Political Action, with contributions from the Muslim Medical Students Association (MMSA), Medical Students of Middle-Eastern Descent (MSMD), and our AMA-MSS chapter. In his talk, Dr. El-Sayed described his unique and fascinating path from medicine to politics. The journey started with two motivations that we medical students know well: a passion for science and the desire to help people. What struck many of us was his desire to operate at a broader scope. Dr. El-Sayed saw that he could work at a popu- lation level by focusing on public health. He said he did not wish to treat symptoms, but hoped to change the systems that lead to illness in the first place. Dr. El-Sayed would appear to be moving in the same direction by seeking the gubernatorial nomination, hoping to address the social determinants of health as governor.
These decisions were not without risk, and Dr. El- Sayed informed us that he’s been told he would fail at
least four times in his career. Hearing his thoughts about why he made what many considered rash decisions com- municated an inspiring vision on the impact someone with a medical degree can have. As medical students, we all want to help people, but there are an infinite number of ways to do that, and having an MD will likely help with all of them. For us, Dr. El-Sayed’s words served as an opportunity to think about what kind of impact
we hoped to have in our own careers.
Afterwards, students got to chat with him about public
health, and explore the influence and privilege that our path to an MD affords us. Much of the discussion was about how we can plan our careers to have the impact we want. Some thought about keeping an eye on political opportunities; some thought about working in public health; others thought about how to get involved in their communities.
First year medical student Jake Claflin, who was very inspired by Dr. El-Sayed’s presentation, commented that “Dr. El-Sayed reminded me that although I am a medical student, I do not need to wait to have an impact on my community. In medical school, it is easy to focus on the things we do not know. We still have a lot to learn on our paths to becoming doctors, but we do not have to wait until we have graduated to share our voice. I left Dr. El-Sayed’s talk feeling reenergized, refocused, and thinking about the things I could realistically do while in school to make my voice heard in the current political climate.”
Dr. El-Sayed’s words encouraged us to explore the changes that we may be able to achieve even as medical students. We look forward to leveraging our influence to advocate for political change that we believe in at upcoming events like the MSMS House of Delegates meeting and the fast-approaching AMA National Meeting in Chicago. We hope to have a chance to hear from the other gubernatorial candidates as well!
Volume 69 • Number 2 Washtenaw County Medical Society BULLETIN 19

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