By Lindsey and Cyra, M2 Student Leaders
While neither of us came into medical school dead-set on OB/GYN or a career providing reproductive healthcare, both of us took for granted that a woman’s right to choose was something that all physicians should respect, regardless of their personal beliefs. However, as first year medical students it didn’t take us long to realize that not everyone believed in creating a safe, non-judgmental space to talk to our patients about their reproductive options, let alone to think about advocating for comprehensive reproductive healthcare.
In an atmosphere where a noticeable portion of the student body and faculty members were openly anti-choice, it would have been easy to avoid confrontation and to allow this important part of our education to be neglected. We felt isolated and afraid to speak up when the conversation turned in this direction for fear of isolating peers and potential mentors.
However, MSFC’s 2015 Conference on Family Planning helped us to find our feet as students advocating for our educational needs, future reproductive health care providers, and future political advocates. At the Conference, we found a strong, powerful group of peers with whom to discuss and learn, and to gain confidence in making ourselves heard. We were impressed that the conference presentation did not shy away from controversial topics, but instead encouraged us to think like future clinicians who weigh scientific evidence and moral questions. The clinical sessions we attended helped fill in notable gaps in our education, provided us with hands-on skills, and taught us how to thoughtfully counsel patients who are contemplating their options.
Since returning to campus, we have fostered an atmosphere of discussion and education around reproductive health, organizing educational events to supplement our curricula as the leaders of our school’s MSFC chapter. Since we began to speak up, we have found more and more of our peers are willing to stand with us. Each time we have an event, we are surprised by the new faces we see and amazed by the growing receptiveness. We are witnessing the beginnings of strong advocacy for change on our campus, and hopefully in clinical practice beyond.
This year, we are coming to the Conference on Family Planning with two interested first-year students (and two newly-involved second year students!) who we hope will learn and become leaders in our chapter next year to carry this momentum forward. We want them to experience the inspiration and leadership development that we felt after last year’s Conference. We’re also coming back ourselves for a second year because it was impossible to do and see everything we wanted the first time around. While last year we stuck mostly to clinical sessions, this time we’re looking forward to attending more advocacy sessions, seeking out more on LGBT health, and getting fired up to continue to advocate when we come home. We are also both so excited to potentially try the Abortion Training Institutes as we move into third year.
The best thing about the conference is the feeling of finally being with your people- a group of motivated, high achieving future medical professionals that share the same priorities: the right to high quality reproductive healthcare for all, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or the ability to pay. The conference reminds us why we went to medical school in the first place, and sends us back to school ready to face whatever comes our way!