August 21, 2017
Area(s) of Interest: Medical School Physician Leadership
The UC San Diego School of Medicine has been setting the bar for medical student engagement in politics for the past several years. Under the direction of San Diego anesthesiologist and UCSD professor Robert Hertzka, M.D., medical students have the opportunity to take a course on health care policy, which includes two trips to the Capitol to lobby legislators on health care issues and culminates in a one-of-a-kind summer internship in Sacramento.
One of Dr. Hertzka’s superstars is Cecilia Bonaduce-Leggett, now a third-year medical student at UCSD and one of the leaders of UCSD’s Politics in Medicine Student Interest Group.
Bonaduce-Leggett recently organized a town hall for UCSD medical students with local Congressman Scott Peters (D-San Diego) to discuss health care policy. She wanted medical students to have an opportunity to speak with Peters during this transitional period in health care and Congressman Peters was more than happy to work with the medical students to plan the event.
“We need our elected officials to know that we have a real stake in this and the changes made will impact our ability to care for future patients,” said Bonaduce-Leggett.
Bonaduce-Leggett pointed to the impact the cuts proposed in the Republican bills to repeal the Affordable Care Act would have on UCSD’s Student-Run Free Clinic Project. Over 80 percent of medical students at UCSD participate in the free clinic, which provides care to the underserved in San Diego—a population that will be significantly affected by cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. In addition, medical students participate in grant-dependent scientific research that is also at risk under the current administration.
Upon graduating, medical students will enter into residency programs that are funded by the federal government in order to complete their medical training. Any cuts to residency program funding will further exacerbate the physician shortage in America, Bonaduce-Leggett explained.
The purpose of the town hall event with Peters was to provide medical students an opportunity to advocate, to be heard, but also, to learn.
“After two years of learning about advocacy and with the rapid changes in health care policy due to repeal-and-replace efforts,” Bonaduce-Leggett said, “I realized that advocacy is not just about being heard, but about being informed, which is why this event was so important for us.”
Peters taught the medical students about the policy making process and shared his insights about the health care debate in Congress.
As the Senate continues to develop its own version of AHCA, medical students at UCSD will continue their advocacy work. Several students will spend time in Sacramento this summer working with members of the state legislature on health care in California.
Bonaduce-Leggett was part of last year’s medical student cohort to intern at the Capitol.
“With only one free summer during the medical school process, it’s natural to wonder why medical students would dedicate their only time off to taking on an internship related to state politics instead of working in a clinic or simply taking a vacation,” said Bonaduce-Leggett. “Bottom line? We believe that the future of medicine should have a say in the future of medicine.”
Bonaduce-Leggett, a native of Los Angeles, has been a medical student delegate to the California Medical Association and American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates for the past two years. This year, she was also elected Region 1 Chair of AMA Medical Student Section.
California's doctors aren't just health care and medical experts. They're also community leaders, philanthropists, entrepreneurs and policymakers dedicated to ensuring that patients receive quality health care at an affordable cost. #CMAdocs showcases California physicians leading the charge to help their communities thrive.
Share your story or celebrate a deserving colleague today!