UAA’s American Medical Student Association chapter offers support to pre-med students

The American Medical Student Association (AMSA) has made its way to UAA as of this year. AMSA, founded in 1950, is one of the biggest and largest pre-physician organization with over 30,000 members, according to the AMSA website. These members are made up of physicians, medical students and pre-medical students, all gaining experience to enhance their performance in the medical profession by making connections with working physicians and providing a sense of community.

In Alaska, there has been a lack of support for pre-health students without an organization like AMSA to help with their journey through medical education. Now, AMSA is present at UAA and is ready to start taking members.

Christopher Sawyer, biological science major and president of the AMSA chapter at UAA, pushed for AMSA to be brought up to Alaska.

“It was my initial idea to charter the first active AMSA chapter here in Anchorage. I transferred here from a small private school in Minnesota where pre-med students had plenty of resources. When I arrived at UAA, I was excited to be able to work closely with WWAMI and graduate in the state where I grew up. I was shocked to find the overall lack of support structure for the numerous pre-medical students,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer was inspired to change UAA for future students after the difficulties he went through studying for the Medical College Admissions Test, a seven and a half hour test covering the knowledge over a span of four years and across seven subjects.

“I tried changing the system as just a student when I was studying for the Medical College Admissions Test, or MCAT,” Sawyer said. “I was ultimately unsuccessful in securing a MCAT study room for myself, despite meeting with the dean of students and countless building managers. I did the remainder of my studies in classrooms in the basement of Providence and vowed to change things at UAA so that future students wouldn’t go through what I did.”

Shannon Royal, natural science major and vice president of AMSA’s chapter at UAA, joined with Sawyer to further expand AMSA’s mission and provide opportunity.

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“The president and I are also working to build an extensive network of students, faculty and advisers that can help steer people towards their goals. Currently, we are searching for a room dedicated to students who are pre-med and studying for their MCAT or similar higher education exams,” Royal said.

One disadvantage pre-medical students face at UAA is the lack of advisers for the numerous amounts of students in the program.

“I want this to be the start of the new pre-medical program here at UAA. My goal is to create the first UAA pre-medical committee so that all of the students here have a chance to meet with advisers. This school is too big to just have one pre-medical adviser. It’s a long and confusing process,” Sawyer said.

There are endless amounts of benefits pre-medical students can gain by joining the AMSA organization. AMSA was designed to help students focus on school without worrying about their bank account.

“AMSA has an insane amount of benefits, the day you sign up they send you 1000 Kaplan note cards designed for your prospective test. Kaplan also gives you a free $500 Biochemistry class and 10 percent discount on all their other products and 50 percent for officers,” Sawyer said.

AMSA also offers 30 percent off all nursing textbooks and PA textbooks. They offer discounts on contact lenses, care insurance, health insurance, application fees, application coaching, interview coaching, personal hygiene products, school supplies and more. Including all the discount benefits, AMSA provides many opportunities to help get your foot in the door in the medical field.

“I want to build a network for pre-medical students, our chapter is going to be focused on building lasting and meaningful relationships with working physicians to gain experience and learn. It’s hard to get ahead in the medical field and it’s often all about who you know,” Sawyer said. “I have been volunteering and shadowing in hospital settings for eight years and have certainly helped others get involved, I want to leave behind my resources so that others can further benefit from my hard work and connections.”

When Sawyer and Royal started recruiting two weeks ago, there were only two members. Now, there are officially 25 members and they are anticipating on having 100 members by fall. The AMSA organization welcomes all students in pre-health fields to join their organization.

Jessica Kester, biological science major and secretary for the AMSA chapter at UAA, recommends that students in the health field should see what AMSA has to offer.

“I would encourage pre-medicine students to look at the AMSA website and at the pre-medicine benefits for AMSA members. It gives you a better understanding of all that AMSA has to offer you,” Kester said. “What the chapter here at UAA can do is assist you in your journey to being accepted into medical school, It’s a long one, there are quite a few things expected of you outside of GPA and MCAT score, and we at AMSA desire to build a community that actively helps and supports you this entire endeavor.”

The American Medical Student Association is a way to connect with other students in the same field. To find out more information, check out the AMSA website and look out for UAA’s AMSA chapter around campus.