Philly med school students learning anatomy, bedside manner, and lobbying

    Medical students across the region say they’re doing more than preparing to tend to their patients. They’re engaging the politics that surround the health system.

    Once fully implemented, Obamacare is expected to cover 32 million more people with health insurance.

    To treat all those people, health system architects say America especially needs people like Jenna Fox — who want to be primary care doctors.

    “Hopefully I’ll be able to staff a clinic that didn’t previously have a physician or fill a gap in an underserved area,” said Fox, a second year student at Jefferson Medical College.

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    Fox, 23, grew up in Somerset County, Pa. and wants to practice rural medicine. To make those plans plausible, Fox says she needs help repaying her student loans. Programs such as the National Health Service Corps do that, but Fox said those programs need stable funding to keep going.

    Similar to other students, Fox said she’s facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical school bills.

    Fox was recently elected as the Northeast regional director of the American Medical Student Association. This weekend, she and other Philadelphia-region students gathered in Washington, D.C., for advocacy training and to lobby lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

    “I was also advocating for my future patients,” Fox said. “Which I think is a really critical aspect of training and being a physician.”

    Fox said doctors can help improve access to care.

    “A lot of people are not aware about how dire these issues are until they personally experience them,” said Mark Attiah, a third-year medical student at the University of Pennsylvania.

    “People who don’t have health insurance, who don’t see a physician regularly, then they end up with advanced stages of disease that could have been preventable — I think that is the issue of our time,” Attiah said.

    He’s planning to be a neurosurgeon but is also studying bioethics and hopes to influence health policy through his writing.

    He says for many scientist-physicians that’s an unfamiliar skill.

    “Doctors are trained to work in a formulaic, systematic way,” Attiah said. “Politics is kind of the antithesis of that.”

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