A Voice for Medical Students

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Match Day was different this year for Elizabeth Wiley, J.D., M.P.H., a fourth-year medical student at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS).

While her classmates were waiting to find out where they’d be spending the next years of their lives in residency, she was touring Ghana, where she had served as a delegate in the 61st General Assembly March Meeting of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA).

Wiley opted out of the Match — she’ll participate next year — but was just as nervous as her peers back in the United States. She too was awaiting news about her future, specifically whether or not she had been elected to serve as the national president of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), the nation’s oldest and largest independent association for physicians-in-training.

“When the election results were announced in AMSA’s House of Delegates on March 10, I was elated — and relieved!” said Wiley. “It’s such an honor to lead an exceptional organization that inspires a community of future physicians through education and advocacy.”

Wiley is the first student from GW to hold this position — a full-time job that involves chairing AMSA’s Board of Trustees, maintaining alliances with other organizations, and visiting AMSA chapters around the country — but it’s GW that helped prime her for the responsibility.

“I’m so grateful for the experiences I’ve had at GW,” she said. “Throughout medical school, I’ve had unparalleled opportunities to integrate my passion for health policy and advocacy into my training.”

One of Wiley’s most influential experiences was working on the Medical Education Futures Study, a project in the Milken Institute School of Public Health (formerly the GW School of Public Health and Health Services) Department of Health Policy that she was connected to through SMHS’s track in Health Policy. While working with the MISPH’s Fitzhugh Mullan, M.D., Murdock Head Professor of Medicine and Health Policy, and Candice Chen, M.P.H., assistant research professor of Health Policy, she even helped draft legislative language that ended up in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“I don’t think any other medical student in the country is able to say that,” said Wiley. “And it’s thanks to GW I had that opportunity.”

There’s a lot that Wiley’s accomplished that most medical students can’t say they’ve done: She studied Philosophy and Women’s Studies as an undergraduate, taught middle school in Detroit with Teach for America, spent a year in Norway conducting health services research with the support of a Fullbright grant, earned both a Public Health and Law degree before entering medical school, and served on the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) Board of Directors.

And now, she can add “national president of AMSA” to the list.

“It’s really exciting to take on this role during an election year and while health care reform is before the Supreme Court,” said Wiley, who served two terms on AMSA’s Board of Trustees as the vice president of Internal Affairs and as national secretary. “One of my goals is to be a voice for medical students in the upcoming election and on Capitol Hill.”

In particular, Wiley hopes to advocate for increased access to health care for all Americans, address the growing problem of student debt, and bring more political awareness to HIV/AIDS and reproductive justice.

She’s especially looking forward to next spring, when AMSA will host IFMSA’s 62nd General Assembly March Meeting in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with its National Convention. The event is the world’s largest gathering of medical students, with more than 2,500 physicians-in-training from over 100 countries expected to attend.

“It’s going to be so great to have medical students from all over the world in Washington, D.C.,” said Wiley. An added bonus? Next year, when it’s her turn to participate in Match Day, she won’t be so far from home.

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