By Emily Schott
Medical school is an intense journey where tomorrow’s doctors are educated and prepared to treat patients. With so much training to cover in four short years, there is typically little time for the curriculum to explore the more nonclinical side of medicine.
That’s where the Kentucky Medical Association’s (KMA) Medical Student Outreach and Leadership (MSOL) program stepped in, offering future physicians the opportunity to learn about the political, social and economic factors at play in the healthcare system. The MSOL program, funded by the Kentucky Foundation for Medical Care (KFMC), also encourages community involvement, requiring participants to complete a public health outreach project.
Since its inception in 2015, more than 430 students have participated in some aspect of the program, with more than 200 graduating from all program requirements. MSOL graduates are honored at the KMA Leadership Dinner, held each year during the KMA annual meeting. KMA also profiles graduates in monthly newsletters, introducing current physicians to the next generation of medical leaders.
KMA executive vice president Pat Padgett conducts sessions on the basics of healthcare policy and personal considerations for young physicians, with KMA deputy executive vice president and director of advocacy Cory Meadows leading discussions on political advocacy, medical business and public health issues. Special emphasis is placed on Kentucky health and legislative issues, as many students are not native to the state and may not be aware of its challenges. Participants must also complete a webinar and conduct a KMA-approved public health outreach project.
The MSOL program is available to students at both the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville, and this year was introduced at the UK College of Medicine Bowling Green campus and the University of Pikeville-Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine, allowing students in the south-central and eastern parts of the state to benefit from the program’s teachings.
“The MSOL program has allowed us to connect with future physicians and help them cultivate leadership skills before they even begin their residency, and we’re excited to be able to offer the program to more rural areas,” said Padgett. “We’ve had a great turnout this fall at the sessions offered in Bowling Green in Pikeville so far.”
Graduates of the program see its value as well. “[The MSOL Program] made me realize how important being a physician is—not just on the medical side, but also to advocate for your patients on the political side as well,” said 2018 University of Louisville MSOL graduate Natasha Fraser.
Some students are introduced to MSOL by way of other KMA events and programs. University of Kentucky MSOL graduate Bradley Blankenship decided to participate in the MSOL program after attending KMA’s Physicians’ Day at the Capitol. He said he enjoyed being with a community of physicians and learning about the different roles of the Lexington Medical Society, KMA and the American Medical Association. “The MSOL program is a good way for students to get involved,” Blankenship said.
“We want to see physicians not just caring for patients in their practice but caring for patients in various capacities through leadership positions across the state. In getting involved early, we’re increasing the chances that they will continue to seek out these opportunities to lead,” said Padgett.
Variety of Programs
The MSOL program also compliments other physician leadership programs offered by the KMA, which include the award-winning Kentucky Physicians Leadership Institute (KPLI), the premiere leadership training program for Kentucky physicians, and the Community Connector Leadership Program (CCLP), which allows physicians to enhance their leadership skills through education and direct community involvement.
“Our hope is that one day we will see an MSOL graduate also complete our KPLI and CCLP programs. That would really bring things full circle,” said Padgett.
-Emily Schott is with the Kentucky Medical Association.