William Pearce was tired of seeing the lack of residency positions available for graduating medical students. And he was tired of seeing no one doing anything about it.
Now, as the sole medical student from the nation selected to work with the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Government Relations Advocacy Fellowship (GRAF) this year, and the first USF student to be selected to do so, Pearce will take his concerns to the capital.
Pearce, a second year medical student and the recipient of the 2013-14 GRAF position, will be working as a paid member of the AMA’s federal advocacy team in Washington D.C for a full year, working to advance the legislative agenda
of the association along with policies regarding doctors, patients and medical students.
Pearce has already gained some experience in the task of coordinating legislative affairs as the 2012-13 vice chair of the Florida Medical Association Medical Student Section, and in addition, has served as a USF student delegate to the FMA by taking on a leadership role in medical student recruiting efforts and duties at USF.
Pearce said he hopes to address issues regarding graduate medical education and problems regarding the shortage of residency positions available for graduating medical students while in Washington. Pearce said this problem is especially present in Florida, where many newly graduated physicians end up having to complete residency in their specialty in another state.
“In terms of policy, there was a law passed roughly 14 years ago that prevents new residency spots to open,” Pearce said. “If this policy were to be changed, then that could be the start of improving on this problem, because it’s more of a policy problem than a funding one.”
Pearce said he, unlike many medical doctors who he said don’t want to involve themselves in policy making because of their busy lives, is concerned that politicians and lawyers are making medical and health policies.
He said he believes medical students and doctors should be the ones doing so.
“I want to get people excited and inspire more students to take charge of their future,” Pearce said.
Dr. Robert Brooks, associate vice president of health leadership at USF Health, said he sees the fellowship as beneficial for USF’s medical school as well as Pearce.
“The focus of the fellowship is not only teaching medical students about patient centered 21st century medicine, but also the role as a physician advocate for the patient,” Brooks said. “The GRAF is a one of a kind opportunity, and William’s selection will help bring positive attention to the Morsani Center.”
Brooks said he believes advocacy within the health community is important.
“Through the program (Pearce) will learn and be exposed to advocating for health policy issues,” Brooks said. “He will be able to use this learning as a healthcare leader, and can be an example for medical students at USF.”
Pearce said he is aware of the importance of his duty.
“I’m taking on the privilege of representing medical students around the country,” he said. “It’s not something I’ll be taking lightly.”