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Vol 40  No 8
January 10, 2008


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Med students help lead national organization

by Sharon Gray

Michael Organ, left, and Sammy Khalili are serving on the executive of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students.

All medical students in Canada belong to the Canadian Federation of Medical Students (CFMS), but for some students this role goes beyond just being a member or a medical school representative. At Memorial, there are two third-year medical students on the CFMS national executive – Sammy Khalili as vice-president of communications, and Michael Organ as Atlantic regional representative.

In his new position, Mr. Khalili works directly with the public relations officer for CFMS. A current campaign focuses on dissatisfaction with the locations at which the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) is available. In a letter published in the Nov. 13, 2007, issue of Macleans, Mr. Khalili and Jonathan DellaVedova from the Northern Ontario School of Medicine wrote about the emerging frustrations with MCAT, which was recently converted to an electronic version. The letter states that the changes surrounding this key prerequisite for the majority of Canadian medical schools must be considered in the context of equal access to medical education and the diversity of the physician population as a whole.

“As it stands now, the current system borders on discriminatory,” the letter said. “None are more greatly affected than those students from rural backgrounds and low-income families. Students from rural and remote areas are already under-represented in Canadian medical schools. The requirement to travel to one of a limited number of urban MCAT centres emerges as an additional deterrent for these candidates. Although the physician shortage is being felt across the country, rural areas are suffering the most. It is these students from rural settings that are most likely to return to rural areas for practice as compared with their urban counterparts.

In addition, candidates from low-income families already face the burden of escalating undergraduate tuition fees, the MCAT registration fee, medical school application fees, and the prospect of an average six-figure debt upon graduation from medical school. Travel to a distant MCAT centre may be the factor that breaks the bank for these students.”

In addition to encouraging more students to write about this and other issues to local newspapers, Mr. Khalili is also involved in re-vamping the CFMS website and overseeing the Annual Review, a major publication of the federation.

“The biggest goal for me this year is to increase the visibility of the CFMS among our membership,” he said. “All medical students are members, but many have little awareness of the work done by the federation.”

For Mr. Organ, participation in the CFMS began in his second year as junior rep for Memorial, progressing to senior rep, and this year taking on the role of Atlantic Regional representative. He admitted that there are different issues for medical students at Memorial and Dalhousie, with Memorial medical students having one of lowest tuition rates in the country while Dalhousie students have close to the highest.

He said, however, that there are issues that affect all medical students, such as developing a memorandum of understanding among all medical schools for disaster preparedness planning.

“We want to make sure that if medical students are called to help in an emergency, such as an outbreak of Avian flu, there is adequate planning to ensure their protection,” he said. “Also, stemming from the recent specialist strike Quebec where medical students were forced out of hospitals, our goal nationally is to gain reassurance that if there is a disruption of medical education in a school or province, there is a back-up plan in place ensuring that medical education will continue somewhere else in the country.”

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