Thursday, September 02, 2010

To Start a New Student Interest Group?

I'm debating starting a new Student Interest Group (SIG) at my med school.  We have all kinds of them for various specialties (dermatology, orthopedic surgery, family medicine, etc.), cultures/beliefs (LGBT, Christian Medical Association, Spanish language), and other commonalities.  I tried to get involved with one SIG last year that presents 1 hr presentations about science/medicine to students at a local junior high school to get them interested in the topic, but unfortunately the date I was scheduled to present was rescheduled.  But aside from that particular SIG, I haven't found one that really speaks to my interests.  I don't just want to be in some SIG that will sound good on a residency application; rather, I'd like to be a part of something that will have a lasting effect on myself and my peers by preparing us to deal with the challenges that lie ahead.

This led me to an idea for a new SIG, which I would call SkepSIG.  Catchy, I know.  It would basically be a way for medical students to get together to discuss science and medicine and how to effectively communicate these topics to patients.  When I read about how people respond when the scientific evidence contradicts their own beliefs, or when I observe such political and public outcry when it is recommended that an ineffective breast cancer drug have its FDA approval revoked, I can't help but consider how the scientific attitudes of physicians, patients, public officials, and the general public will affect my ability to help my patients in the future.

In SkepSIG, the focus would be on honing our abilities to distinguish between solid evidence in medical journals as well as how to approach some of the anti-science attitudes that are so pervasive in the US.  For example, how do you most effectively approach a person who is opposed to vaccines based on false information?  As I mentioned above, you can't just say that "scientists agree that vaccines are safe" seeing as that might lead to this patient becoming even more entrenched in his/her opinion.  I don't know the best answer to that question, but I certainly agree that it's something the medical community needs to consider.  Patient care is becoming more and more patient-centered, which is a great thing.  But it also means that doctors need to improve their communication skills when discussing the increasingly complicated field of medicine so that patients are best-equipped when deciding their treatment options.

So what do you think, is this an intellectual pursuit worth pursuing?  If so, do you have any other ideas for what could/should be accomplished by the SkepSIG?  Let me know in the comments!

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