Friday, January 24, 2014
E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Vice President for Medical Affairs at the University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean of the School of Medicine; Jay Perman, MD, University of Maryland, Baltimore President; and more than 40 medical students and faculty members traveled to Annapolis on January 23, 2014 to speak with members of the Maryland General Assembly about issues of importance to the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Senate President Mike Miller, House Speaker Michael Busch, and Senator Thomas “Mac” Middleton, chair of the Finance Committee, all came to speak with the students over breakfast. “This is a special privilege,” said Dr. Perman. “Having these legislators take the time to meet with you is a gift, and you should take advantage of it.”
“It is important for you, as students, and for faculty as well, to get the opportunity to not only visit our legislative leaders, but to share with them how we, as an institution, work,” added Dean Reece. “Many are aware in a broad way of what we do, but they very much appreciate hearing specifically how our system works, how medicine works, and some of the challenges that we have had to overcome.”
In face-to-face meetings with lawmakers from their home counties, students conveyed the importance of loan assistance and scholarship support. The average medical school debt for our graduates is almost $170,000, which is above the national average. Loan repayment programs in Maryland would not only assist students with this debt, but also keep these new doctors in the state when they begin to practice medicine. “I am really thankful to be here, because no one has made me feel before that I could be an asset to my state and especially my county, so it was really great to hear Senator Middleton say how crucial it was for students like us to stay in Maryland,” said second-year student Rupal Jain.
Speaker Busch also spoke of the importance of keeping the state’s talent in Maryland. “They talk about how tough it is to get into medical school – it should be tough!” he said. “We want the best and the brightest to be here. You students sitting here are the top percent of talent in medicine today, and we hope you stay here in Maryland. Our goal is to have the best medical delivery system in the nation. I believe we’re already there, but we can always get better.” he admitted. “We want the students at the University of Maryland School of Medicine to get the best training they possibly can, so they can be on the cutting edge in the delivery of medicine in Maryland.”
Financial support from Annapolis for new research facilities, such as Health Science Facility III (HSF-III), has enabled the School of Medicine to find somewhere to put the state-of-the-art equipment and laboratories needed to train our students to stay on that cutting edge. The students thanked the legislators for supporting these capital improvements and expressed their hope that they would continue this funding.
The School of Medicine delegation also urged lawmakers to continue the Cigarette Restitution Fund Program, which helps support cancer research and programs at the University of Maryland Medical Center that provide free health screenings for those who would not otherwise be able to afford them. These screenings have helped to dramatically reduce cancer deaths in Maryland over the last decade. “I am going into primary care, and I think this is such an important part of what we do, being advocates for our patients and our communities,” said Beatrice Digen, a fourth-year student.
Beatrice also came to Annapolis hoping to find out more about the politics behind healthcare. “I thought it would be a good idea for me to come down here and get a better understanding of what goes on behind the secret doors,” she said with a laugh. Hyacinth Norris, a third-year student, agrees. “We need to understand the background behind the laws that are being made that will affect our patients and their health,” she said.