Getting involved in academic organizations is an important aspect of medical student life at any university. These communities provide a forum for learning beyond the classroom and serve as platforms for students to network with one another, faculty members, medical practitioners and others across the professional spectrum.
Medical school academics
The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA hosts academic organizations geared toward both the university-wide student body and the medical student body specifically. The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA chapter of the American Medical Association (AMA), for example, "is dedicated to informing our student body about health policy and the major issues at the state and national level." Along with opening network avenues with prominent AMA-member researchers and physicians, the organization works toward cultivating students into leadership and advocacy roles.
Not all academic organizations are affiliated with professional organizations — the UCLA student body has also formed chapters of several student-governed groups. The American Medical Student Association (AMSA), for example, is dedicated to a better understanding of world health problems and to "improving health and healthcare delivery to all people." It benefits physicians-in-training by engaging them in activist roles and empowering them to make community-sensitive career decisions. And the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) "is the nation's oldest and largest student organization focused on the needs and concerns of medical students of color." Duty-bound to ensure minorities are recruited and retained and focusing on the needs of underserved communities, SNMA membership is nevertheless open to all, as "its service to humanity transcends ethnic lines."
Students can build their academic support system even more robustly through memberships in the more than 30 specialty interest groups, from the Anesthesiology Interest Group to the Women in Surgery Interest Group. These groups allow first- and second-year students to get an early, first-hand perspective on their chosen specialization and to network with specialists in the field. Aspiring cardiologists, for example, can join the Cardiology Interest Group, which arranges lunchtime meetings for students to hear leaders in cardiology research speak on their cutting-edge work. In addition to social events that directly link them with both clinical and research practitioners, students can shadow practicing cardiologists.
Another benefit of specialty groups is the chance to discuss residencies, career paths and other opportunities within the field with practicing physicians. The Family Medicine Interest Group helps its members gain access to regional and national conferences and provides a platform for student networking. It also sponsors educational workshops, mentoring opportunities and lunch talks. By participating in a variety of community service events and putting family medicine in action, they meet patients of all ages and social strata.
Specialty groups can also help students develop clinical skills in their specialty earlier than they would in their traditional academic trajectory. For students planning to work in emergency medicine, for example, the Emergency Medicine Interest Group introduces medical students to the physicians who staff the UCLA Emergency Department. While shadowing these practitioners, students perform front-line emergency medical tasks such as starting IVs, splinting fractured bones and suturing wounds.
Active participation in academic organizations enriches medical student life at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, immersing students in the vanguard of their fields and providing them with guidance and support as they build their skills.