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California medical students elected to AMA offices



December 06, 2016
Area(s) of Interest: Physician Leadership 

Two California Medical Association (CMA) medical students were elected to American Medical Association (AMA) offices at the interim meeting held in November in Florida.

Karthik Sarma, an M.D./Ph.D. student at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA was elected to the AMA Board of Trustees as the AMA Medical Student Section (MSS) representative. Helene Nepomuceno, a second-year medical student at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine, was named chair-elect of the AMA MSS.

Sarma has been a member of the California delegation to the AMA for the past five years. He is a leader in the fields of health information technology, medical education and payment reform. Sarma has provided compelling testimony on numerous occasions before the CMA House of Delegates and has been an excellent representative for the medical students. He has also been very active in medical student leadership at the AMA, starting with his service on the AMA-MSS Committee on Legislation and Advocacy.

Talking about his role and the recent presidential election, Sarma says it is a good time for medical students to get involved in organized medicine. “I think it is essential for students to get involved with organized medicine because the decisions that are being made at the state and federal levels right now will have an enormous impact on the health care system that we will soon be practicing in as physicians," he said. "By making our voices heard, we can help bring about the type of changes that will result in a better system for our patients and our profession."

Sarma has been the driving force in the AMA-MSS for broader consideration of health information technology issues. He led a successful campaign for the establishment of an AMA-MSS Health Information Technology Task Force and served as that group’s inaugural chair from 2014 to 2015. Since then, the task force has been formally adopted by the AMA-MSS as the Committee on Health Information Technology. This past year, Sarma was appointed as the medical student member of the AMA Council on Medical Service, where he has used his experience to help write reports on diverse issues including pharmaceutical pricing, inmate health care and mobile medical apps. Sarma's term on the AMA Board of Trustees will begin next June.

Nepomuceno has been an invaluable asset to CMA, lending her policy analysis and communication skills to the CMA House of Delegates and as a member of CMA's Committee on Membership, Finance and Governance. She has served as an alternate delegate to AMA for the past year.

Her distinctive personal attributes include sensitivity to the needs of her peers and an ability to serve as a bridge between leaders and the greater community. She has demonstrated a dedication to fairness, inclusion and teamwork that sets her apart as the kind of leader who lifts others up. Through devoted and persistent outreach and engagement of her fellow students, Nepomuceno and her peers have built the UC Irvine medical student chapter of CMA into one of the strongest and most active chapters in the state.

Nepomuceno said she is coming to her new role in organized medicine focused on how medical students can advocate for their patients and the profession of medicine on the political stage. “Organized medicine has allowed me to participate in something much larger than myself or my immediate community. I believe emphatically that advocacy is an important component of any plan to change the world, and that the physician is the ultimate patient advocate," said Nepomuceno.  

"Physicians have the privilege of caring for people at their most vulnerable, and it is imperative that physicians continue to protect our patients’ interests by shaping our evolving health care system. There has perhaps never been a more important moment for advocacy, political action and engagement. When it sometimes feels like one voice is too small, together, our collective voices are powerful.”

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