What Organized Medicine Means to the Medical Student

By Lorelle Knight
TCEP Medical Student Board representative

I’ve been asked a few times in the last three years to define ‘organized medicine’ for a medical school peer. The question would come from a student who had heard the term used in a lecture, had read the words on a “Matching into EM” PowerPoint, or had seen the descriptor in my old email signature. I was always quick to explain it in the context of physician advocacy and networking for health policy, but after a record attendance of medical students at TCEP Connect this year, I’ve been thinking more about how organized medicine is viewed by my peers.

In short: what prompts a student to get involved?

This past year, I served as the TCEP Medical Student Committee (MSC) chair, and I can say with confidence that our med student members recognize and appreciate the importance of advocacy in medicine. They are similarly very aware that advocacy is a huge part of what TCEP does. But for better or for worse, most (myself included) didn’t initially join TCEP or the MSC because of an interest in Texas legislation or the process by which physician interests are protected. They joined because someone told them about an organization that would enable them to network with other EM-minded students across Texas, students who could suggest ideas for their interest groups, answer their questions, and share in state-wide volunteer experiences and conferences. Most joined for the community and the opportunities that TCEP’s MSC could provide them, and while they’re happy to learn a bit about policy along the way, their original intent was much more personal. They joined TCEP to network during medical school.

And yet, I’d argue that a strong network is one of the pillars of true organized medicine. These students –myself included– will graduate knowing folks from every Texas med school who then move on to EM residencies all across the country. They will also know how to network. Many will remain involved in ACEP, and at some point the importance of all the policy topics we talked about on our MSC conference calls may hit home more significantly than they anticipated. In the meantime, these students are establishing connections and benefitting from experiences that may someday make them better leaders and advocates for both themselves and their patients.

I would encourage anyone speaking to students about organized medicine to emphasize the connections and resources made available by TCEP, ACEP, and EMRA. Texas med students are incredibly fortunate to have such an established MSC in place, and many of us who initially got involved for the networking opportunities have ultimately become interested in advocacy and health policy as a result. I am one of those students, and I hope to remember that the next time I attempt to explain the ‘organized’ part of organized medicine.