How to Build a State Medical Student Council

Shelby Hoebee, MS4, University of Arizona College of Medicine - Phoenix
EMRA MSC West Coordinator 2019-20

Early on in medical school, I sought out ways to become involved in EM at a local and regional level. Beyond my school EMIG, however, I discovered few opportunities in my state: Arizona. Each year, I saw many students applying for a handful of leadership positions in my EMIG; most ended up disappointed when they were not selected and felt unable to get involved in expressing their passion for the specialty. As I searched for opportunities in the Southwest, I also noticed the lack of communication between students at different medical schools in the region. The more EM-bound students I met, the more I recognized how valuable their passions were. It became obvious that there should be an avenue for students to connect and express their passions on a wider scale. Developing such an avenue seemed even more critical when I learned how few students interested in EM were aware of the benefits of becoming more involved in the state and national ACEP organizations. It was during that time that I realized how valuable a state Medical Student Council (MSC) could be. I set out to create one.

Why create a state MSC?

Much like the national EMRA Medical Student Council, a state MSC is a group of students interested in emergency medicine who come together to create a network of communication, resources, and knowledge to be shared with their peers. A state MSC creates an avenue not only to connect with other students, but also to collaborate and accomplish larger goals. It brings together like-minded individuals with exceptional ideas to create events, projects, and camaraderie. In addition to fulfilling individual goals, it is also a great means of promoting state and national ACEP and EMRA memberships by highlighting the great benefits these organizations provide.

What are the first steps in establishing a state MSC?

The first step in creating a state MSC is identifying needs that are not being met. It is extremely helpful in states that have more than one medical school and where communication between schools is not as robust as it could be. Once the need is identified, it is important to have a clear vision and goals for the council. There’s an endless array of projects and events that can be accomplished by a new MSC, but these must be prioritized and put into perspective. It is a large endeavor to create a new MSC, and because of this, you may want to focus on smaller projects that help build a foundation of communication before targeting larger projects. Creating an MSC without a vision of what you want it to accomplish will make the process much more difficult.

Once the groundwork is set, the next step is to begin building a relationship with your state ACEP chapter. Their support is essential to the success of any MSC. Reaching out to express your interest in creating an MSC does not necessarily mean going straight to the President. Many times, there is an executive committee member who controls the day-to-day business of the chapter. In speaking with the chapter member, let them know why you are interested in creating an MSC. This is exactly why having a well thought out vision beforehand will help you in your execution of the MSC.

MSCs should be beneficial not only to the students, but also to the state ACEP chapters. They provide a way for students to connect with and learn from emergency physicians, as well as a means of promoting membership in the state chapter. MSCs are a great way to cultivate student participation and leadership in the state chapter from very early on. However, it is critical to ensure that the MSC will not be a burden to the state ACEP chapter financially or administratively.

What’s next after your state MSC has been approved?

Once the state ACEP chapter approves the creation of the MSC, you can begin developing a more concrete organizational structure: how many and what positions will form the leadership. It may also be helpful to create a charter in order to put down in writing your mission, goals, and visions for the MSC. There are many different ways to structure your MSC leadership. For example, in Arizona, there is a Chair, Vice-Chair, and two Secretaries/Editors. Each school is also entitled to an Executive Committee Member to help execute various events at their school and communicate with their school EMIGs.

With the MSC structure laid out, it is important to share the details with the state ACEP chapter to get their feedback. Continuous communication between the state chapter and MSC is key to a strong and positive relationship. If approved by the state chapter, you can begin constructing an online application form and, once approved through the state chapter, outreach for applicants can begin. It is at this time that a relationship with each school EMIG can be forged. Take the time to get to know the EMIG leadership and how their school works in terms of events and interest groups. Reaching out to possible applicants is easiest if each EMIG disseminates information to EM-interested students.

After all applications are submitted, the board can be selected and the MSC is officially created. From there, you can hold your first meeting through a video-conferencing platform such as Zoom and begin synthesizing the goals and visions that everyone brought with them. It may also be helpful to create a website as a repository for the council’s events, leadership, and announcements.

The sky's the limit on what a state MSC can accomplish; large EM events bringing together students from across the state and mentorship programs are just a couple of examples. It also becomes easier for the state ACEP chapter and EM residency directors to get information about EM-related opportunities to students since there is now a single point of contact through which they can reach out. In a host of ways, a state MSC opens many new doors to opportunities that may not have been previously available.