Which organizations have you joined??

Well, I have been pouring over the AMSA website lately, trying to get information about overseas volunteer programs. This effort has led me to the websites of numerous other organizations that medical students can join, starting with AMSA itself and including many others, dedicated to various causes. It seems there are an endless number. And I’m sure there will be many more organizations to consider joining once I am actually in med school!! I was just wondering–how involved have other OPMers been as med students? Which activities seem the most worthwhile?

I hope I’ll find some stuff worth getting involved in. I am especially interested in international issues. However, I do not want to find myself painting slogans with tempera paint on poster board ever again. That is what I seem to remember doing a lot of during my “activist” days back in college! Also I don’t really want to be staffing “tables” or doing fundraisers. Hopefully there will be some groups that really DO stuff though. Although, come to think of it, I am reminded of the thread we had awhile back about the med school “proms” and now I’m wondering if the high school mentality also applies somewhat to student organizations? Does this same mentality pervade the “study abroad” programs? In that case maybe I will try to design my own…

Well, I’m really curious what others around here have gotten involved in! Has anyone gotten involved in AMSA or gone to their conferences?

(BTW, I’m also recovering from having my tonsils and wisdom teeth out a couple weeks ago, am trying to stretch out my absence from work as long as possible, and have WAY too much spare time on my hands. Sorry if my curiosity is pouring over a bit here! I suppose once I am actually IN med school I’ll have something more important to do than debate which clubs to join…)

I didn’t join any clubs, but I helped start one–a student AIDS group. We had a journal club which was great and also some tables and balloons and fundraising–you know, each person does what interests them most. What we believed in starting our group is that every med student wants to be in charge of something so we designed the group so that everyone could be in charge of something. As it turned out the journal club got me a NEJM article but wasn’t particularly well-attended; on the other hand, the tables and balloons and fundraising led to other stuff–med students signing letters, the group winning visibility and respect from funders within the school, and so on–so I wouldn’t underestimate the value of that. And before that, with the guy who I started the group with, we went to go protest against the South African Minister of Finance along with some great Tufts students and some fired-up undergrads, and I cornered him afterwards at the wine and cheese reception and made him listen to why I thought poor people could take antiretrovirals. I’m glad to say that I think he was quite rattled by the whole experience and I hope it was a small part of reminding him and his fellow Cabinet members that they were angering their natural allies internationally. So, there are opportunities like that from time to time–all of which are opportunities you can make for yourself.

Of all the student groups one that might be the best campus-to-campus is Physicians for Human Rights. AMSA is good but is kind of diffuse in their agenda and varies greatly campus to campus. PHR is never a huge group on any campus, I think, but the organization has a lot of good support for student efforts. One that varies campus to campus but can be quite good–depending on the agenda of the local chapter–is the Student National Medical Association, a historically African-American group that also welcomes white folks or anyone else. I sometimes wish that I had stretched myself a bit more to join groups like SNMA; but for me, one group was enough, and AIDS was my main concern.

As far as going abroad–no, it’s not like that. But the thing you do is wait until you actually get to the school and then start seeing a) what projects and professors are around who can hook you up with interesting stuff; and b) what kind of things the school will give you money to do. There’s usually an office with someone who tells you these things.

For my post first year summer, I went to South Africa to work with an AIDS activist group there; no med student from my school had worked with them before but I just decided that I wanted to and put in a proposal. Especially in a school that emphasizes international stuff and has some money on hand–as you’ll be attending, I think?–there’s lots of options for stuff like this to do if you’re willing to make the options happen. People are usually excited when you’re ready to take initiative and tell them how you’re going to use their money. That’s much nicer for them than them trying to suggest some way you might be able to use their money. So rather than looking to see what other medical students have done I would recommend imagining what you would most ideally like to do and then set about to try to figure out how you could get funded to do it.

Anyway when you start meeting the little subset of crazy-driven international policy wonks, diplo-brats and former Peace Corps volunteers, you won’t feel like you’re at prom at all; you’ll start wondering what you’ve been doing with your life.

But, to sum up, you will definitely be able to find something good for the summer if you have an idea of what you want to do.


I joined a few national and statewide organizations with (mostly) free membership and tangible benefits (journals, discounts, etc.). I did not take on any responsibility because I wanted to put other things first. Also, I have thousands of hours of volunteer experience and refuse to take on another “leadership” position just to add to my resume.

For activities in first year, I chose a very few that I was most interested in, and I only took on projects that no one else could do, which used my specific skills. I was not interested in participating in another elementary kids’ reading or tutoring program, or another feed-the-homeless program (again, I already have plenty of experience with these). I think these are worthwhile programs, but there are other organizations that do a much better job than the med students do, and it’s not a good use of my skills.

There are hundreds of summer opportunities for the summer after MS1. You can probably do almost anything you want. I chose activities based on my priorities - vacation, Spanish, and clinical skills - and am happy with my choices so far.

That’s true! I forgot that I joined the Massachusetts Medical Society (for the NEJM subscription) and the AMA for the JAMA subscription. I have often found the AMA’s policy stances to be contrary enough to my own that I regret the latter decision. I also joined AMSA to get the free something or other–a Netter? I have been active in none of these.


That’s true! I forgot that I joined the Massachusetts Medical Society (for the NEJM subscription) and the AMA for the JAMA subscription. I have often found the AMA’s policy stances to be contrary enough to my own that I regret the latter decision. I also joined AMSA to get the free something or other–a Netter? I have been active in none of these.

Hi there,
I did not join AMSA (medical student organization) because it added nothing to my career and was a student organization. I joined the AMA (JAMA and career planning) because it is a professional organization and gave me plenty of contacts with the physicians in my area. I was also a member of the SNMA because I am dedicated to healthcare delivery to underserved populations. We did screenings in innercity daycare centers, provided STD counseling to teenagers and health screening to inner city senior citizens. We also counseled young gang members on the realities of trauma. We worked at the free clinic and drove the hypothermia van for the homeless passing out blankets and hot coffee/tea/chocolate during the winter months. We also rescued people who were without shelter when the temp dipped below 30 degrees.
I was also co-president of my surgical society and spent some time doing work with this organization setting up suture clinics for medical students and getting shadowing experiences for pre-medical students.
I also received NEJM every week but SNMA and the surgical society were my main organizations. Even today, I belong to the AMA, the Ohio branch of the AMA, NMA and of course, the American College of Surgeons where I am a candidate for fellow. With my schedule, the NMA and the American College of Surgeons are the organizations that I am most active in.

As a strong beliver in the power of professional associations, I joined AMA and the Texas MA. Galveston County Society came along for free. I also joined the American College of Emergency Physicians, Tx College of Emergency Physicians, Society for Academic Emergency Medicine and the Emergency Medicine Resident’s Association, all as student members (EM has a ton of organizations). I joined these because I knew that EM was what I was going to do and wanted the contacts and journals.
I also joined the American Academy of Emergency Medicine (a smaller, splinter group off of ACEP) for the journal and the different perspective on EM. Since graduation, I’m letting my AAEM membership lapse and maintaining my ACEP/EMRA ones.
I also joined AMSA for the software discounts. I guess on this front, I’m sort of the anti-Joe…I feel much more comfortable with what the AMA does than what AMSA does.
I also joined the family practice national group (I can’t remember the abbreviation) because they have a great and very readable journal.
I was our schools TMA and AMA representative for several years, and I served on several TCEP committees. I went to most TMA and AMA conferences during my first three years but got too busy with interviews during fourth year. I went to all of the TCEP conferences and one ACEP conference.
I’d recommend joining AMA and your state association as well as the family medicine group for the great journal. I learned a lot from that subscription. Also look at a more activist approach is what you’re looking for.
Once you have some idea of what specialty you want to go into, join that specialty group and get active in that.
BTW, you don’t have to join the groups to mooch the free lunches during the first couple of weeks of school. I was well fed thanks to the pathology (I can’t imagine a field I’m more poorly suited for) and AMWA.
Take care,

Thanks everyone, for all these great responses! I am already hoping to join a couple of the organizations people have recommended–PHR and AMA for starters. I hadn’t thought about the benefit of getting journal subscriptions, but that’s an added incentive.
Joe, thanks for your description of how you planned your summer in South Africa. It’s very inspiring! I have a few ideas about what I want to do during my post-MS1 summer. I might want to work with TB patients, or with refugees, or else I would like to work on learning another language that could help me should I eventually pursue an international career. I know some students have spent the summer studying medical Spanish. I already know Spanish but I would like to learn Arabic. However, I’m not sure whether it would be better to spend the summer learning a language or doing something more clinical.
And I like the idea of journal clubs! I know I will return to this thread in the near future to remind myself of the many good ideas I’ve gotten here.

Hey pushkin,
I’d strongly recommend joining your student led affiliate of the AMA/State Medical Association/Society. Odds are, even as DOs we are (1) going to end up in allopathic residencies and (2) never see OMM after Comlex I is in the rearview mirror so building those bridges now makes sense.
In addition to that I joined the two clubs that are focusing on the two specialities that I will likely end up in.
Everyone has a different approach. I know a guy who signed up for 11 clubs so that “they would be on his transcript”. I limited myself to four so that I can be more involved in the efforts of each.
Finally, there’s an underlying political current under some of the clubs that are on campus; for instance we have a pro-life club and a pro-abortion club on campus. So it might pay to get to know the views and goals of the clubs that you do join so that they are in harmony with your own.