Learning Medicine From All Angles
by Mary Conrad
UNM School of Medicine student Athanasios (“Nas”) Manole (’09 BA) makes relationships the top priority in his life. Relationships with family. The doctor-patient relationship—a model he sees disappearing in modern health care. The relationship between the government, health insurers, and physicians. Recently, Nas had a rare opportunity to examine that relationship more closely. He was selected as a 2012 American College of Physicians (ACP) Health Policy Intern and spent four weeks in May in Washington, D.C., learning more about the ACP’s health policy advocacy work and talking to legislators about some of the complex issues facing health care today. The ACP selects only one such intern per year.
During his internship, Nas covered health care topics such as physician reimbursement, patients’ access to physicians, lowering health care costs, and graduate medical education, which is especially important to him and his classmates. “[Hospitals] are cutting down on the number of medical resident spots,” Nas said. “That’s absolutely what we don’t need.”
Nas admitted that the work seemed daunting at first, considering the scope and depth of the issues facing the health care industry. “In lobbying, there’s no guarantee your voice will be heard,” he said. “I had doubts when I got there that I’d be able to do much. But health care is one of the most important issues in the nation. When you tell [legislators] that you’re a medical student, senators, congressmen, executives will all come talk to you. I think our leaders really are looking out for the best interests [of Americans].”
Despite the stress and workload, Nas loved spending a month in the nation’s capital. “I’ve always had a really strong love for the U.S. and everything it stands for,” he said. “I think sometimes people take that for granted. Just the amount of freedom we have—social, financial, the ability to climb the social ladder—you don’t find that in countries like Greece or anywhere else.
“It’s up to us to stay involved politically,” he continued. “We need doctors and medical students involved in the process that dictates how we’re going to treat our patients. More and more, you see insurance companies determining how much time we’ll spend with patients. We need to get back to the doctor-patient relationship.”
Nas volunteers with the Association for the Advancement of Minorities in Medicine, a UNM student organization, and says that physician diversity leads to better outcomes in medicine. “Research has shown that, especially in New Mexico, your patients are more likely to listen to you, cooperate, and follow your medical plan if they can identify with you,” he said.
Nas carries valuable perspective from his spring internship with him into his third year of medical school, which promises to be especially busy because of clinical rotations. But Nas believes it’s imperative to balance clinical medicine with health policy and volunteer pursuits. “The people who go beyond just learning medicine make the best doctors,” he said. “You’re able to effect change for thousands, if not millions, of people. Building an integrated health care system is really important, and I encourage all my fellow colleagues and the American public in general to stay involved because it does have the ability to affect our daily lives.”
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