SOM Students Produce Academic Journal Focused on Health Policy
The Roundtable Journal on Health Policy (RJHP) comprises a multi-disciplinary collection of commentaries and papers by SOM students
Inspired by recent events, including the COVID-19 pandemic and major social unrest surrounding race equity in the United States, several students in the New York Medical College School of Medicine (SOM) sought to provide an outlet to share their perspectives on these broad range of issues by producing their own student-run academic journal. The resulting fall 2020 edition of the Roundtable Journal on Health Policy (RJHP) comprises a multi-disciplinary collection of commentaries and papers by SOM students on a wide range of issues in politics, society and health care from telemedicine and vaccination efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic, to the importance of implicit bias training in medical education.
"RJHP stemmed from discussions we had as part of Health Policy Roundtable, an elective for first- and second-year medical students that meets monthly to discuss pertinent topics in health policy,” says Rajkumar Pammal, SOM Class of 2023, who served as editor-in-chief of the fall 2020 issue of the journal. “The medical field does not exist in a vacuum, and it is crucial for today’s physicians to understand the social, economic and political factors that influence the health of their patients and their ability to care for them. As such, we re-launched RJHP, with the goal of providing medical students a platform to engage with these issues.”
The Health Policy Roundtable, which started at NYMC in 2010, and RJHP are supported in part by the generosity of the Sidney E. Frank Foundation and are representative of the continued growth of the Sidney Frank programs at NYMC. The initial funding from the Foundation supported summer fellowships for first-year students to work with clinicians and since has grown to support both the Roundtable and now the RJHP. Two editions of the RJHP were previously published in 2017 and 2018 under the leadership of Evan Einstein, M.D., M.P.H. ’18 and Anurag Saraf, M.D. ’18.
Joseph English, M.D., Sidney E. Frank Distinguished Professorship of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, serves as director of the Sidney Frank programs at NYMC. “Mr. Frank was a successful businessman about to start a family foundation and a good friend of Michael Blumenfield, M.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, medicine and surgery at NYMC,” says Dr. English. “Over a lunch meeting, Mr. Frank was particularly taken with our idea that medical students were taught well at the bedside but did not always appreciate the importance of their advocacy though professional initiatives beneficial to the public. He subsequently made a gift to NYMC of $5 million. As Chair of the Department, his generous gift enabled us to launch a broad range of initiatives, including the student programs with the Journal being the most recent. Mr. Frank’s gift remains the largest gift from a private donor our medical school has ever received.”
The students first put out a call for articles to their fellow second-year medical students last summer. From there, they underwent a peer-review process to edit and produce final articles for the journal. Alexandra Schulz, Elias Kahan and Justin Lapow, all members of the SOM Class of 2023, served as managing editors on the journal.
“I think medical students have a responsibility to consider all dimensions of their future profession, including those beyond the exam room,” says Ms. Schulz. “We must grapple with all parts of being a physician, whether that be understanding the challenges of vaccine development and distribution, surveying the impact of a pandemic on minority populations or considering possible solutions to tackling systemic racism in medicine. I am very proud of this group of editors and writers for addressing complicated, yet extremely important health policy topics in this issue.”
“My inspiration for becoming involved in the RJHP stemmed from the numerous political, scientific, and social issues that all seemed to come to a head around the same time,” says Mr. Lapow. “The COVID-19 pandemic also brought many health policy issues, which had been previously simmering in the background, to center stage. I wanted to contribute to the process of addressing these issues in whatever ways I could.”
With their first issue now complete, going forward, the students plan to produce two editions each year and hope to expand RJHP’s call for articles to all four years of SOM students. They also plan to explore avenues to turn some of the articles into action, such as advocacy through AMA policymaking.
“There is so much to learn as a medical student that I think we sometimes lose sight of how we as physicians, and healthcare in general, fits into the bigger picture,” says Mr. Kahan. “I hope this journal helps to put our role into perspective and highlight the broad impact that we can have."
“It is my hope that medical students will continue to give attention to how the practice of medicine can play a role in tackling many of the issues we face in society,” says Mr. Lapow. “I think it is often very easy as medical students to focus so heavily on our academic commitments that we tune out the rest of the world. Thus, the RJHP is an amazing opportunity for students to take a step back and think about how we can use our platform to influence change more broadly."