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Starting an Ob-Gyn Student Interest Group

Welcome! We are very pleased that you are interested in developing a Student Interest Club in ob-gyn and women's health care. ACOG and APGO, two of the leading organizations in ob-gyn and women’s health education collaborated to bring you this resource.

Purpose and Objectives

Purpose

To provide central coordinating support for women’s health student interest clubs.

Objectives

  • For medical students to gain an understanding of what is involved in a career as an ob-gyn
  • Improve women’s health curriculum at medical schools through faculty and student advocacy
  • For students to learn concepts in women’s health issues related to wellness, health maintenance, and disease prevention
  • Promote clinical skills in women’s health
  • Raise awareness of gender differences in health issues
  • Strengthen interdisciplinary efforts related to women’s health projects
  • Increase women’s health advocacy within medical schools and communities
  • Promote student participation in the development of the club
  • Offer ACOG and APGO as resources to medical students interested in ob-gyn and careers in women’s health care

Information for Students

ACOG is a private, voluntary, nonprofit organization of health care professionals devoted to the health care of women throughout their life cycle. ACOG works in four primary areas:

  • Serving as a strong advocate for quality health care for women
  • Maintaining the highest standards of clinical practice and continuing education for its members
  • Promoting patient education and stimulating patient understanding of, and involvement in, medical care
  • Increasing awareness among its members and the public of the changing issues facing women’s health care

APGO is a private, voluntary, nonprofit organization of professionals whose mission is to promote excellence in women's health care education by:

  • Considering problems relating to the member departments of gynecology and obstetrics in schools of medicine
  • Advancing and improving the study of gynecology and obstetrics
  • Providing an exchange of information on programs of study, teaching methods, and research activities among gynecologic and obstetric programs

Both organizations are dedicated to the education of future providers of health care to women. In this common interest, ACOG and APGO have collaborated in providing resource materials to aid in development of student interest clubs. Advantages to being part of this national program include:

  • Educational materials from ACOG and APGO
  • Promotional items from ACOG
  • Access to leaders in women’s health
  • Networking with other student clubs

Steps for Starting a Student Interest Club

A. Collaborate with Peers to Develop Goals

There will be a group of you who have a common interest in starting a women’s health interest group. If so, begin by brainstorming about your goals and potential activities. It is important to be clear about your goals. Are you interested in exploring career options in women’s health? Doing community projects? Learning more about gender specific research findings? If you do not yet have a group start one by putting up signs, using word of mouth, posting to class websites, or using informational bulletin boards.

B. How to find faculty advisors
  1. Start with your Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. You may wish to speak with the chair of the department, the third-year clerkship director, the residency director, or faculty who teach the basic sciences courses. Any of these individuals may be interested in becoming a faculty advisor for your interest club. If not, they should be able to suggest other potential advisors.
  2. Ask interested third and fourth-year students which faculty are student advocates.
  3. Ask in the Departments of Medicine, Family Practice, Community Health, or Women’s Health if there is faculty with particular interest or expertise in women’s health issues.
  4. Ask your dean of students for a recommendation.
  5. Once you have identified possible faculty advisors, talk with each one regarding your goals and find out how those relate to their goals. Try to identify the best fit. You may decide to choose one or more advisors. Consider utilizing many talents by creating a steering committee of interested faculty and students.
C. Organizing your first meeting
  1. Decide when and where to meet, being careful to maximize convenience and minimize potential conflicts. Check on deadlines, exams, meetings, and other important events affecting classes other than your own. Obtain any necessary permissions for using meeting rooms in the school or hospital. Generally one to one and a half hours is a good length of time. Work with your faculty advisor(s) to ensure they will be present.
  2. Advertise your meeting: Use as many venues for student communication as possible. Think broadly to reach students from all classes.
  3. Decide what will be the focus of the first meeting (i.e. discussing goals, considering ideas for activities, etc.). Consider using brainstorming techniques where all ideas are thrown out and judgment is not passed. Be open to ideas that may be different from those of the organizing group.
  4. Decide on a spokesperson to chair the first meeting.
  5. All groups need to develop a governance structure, but consider the option of delaying these decisions until the second meeting.
  6. Try to get a small amount of funding for snacks and drinks. Enlist the help of the faculty advisor(s) and their departments. They may be able to underwrite the meeting; if not, they may have ideas about other resources. If this route is unsuccessful, try the Student Affairs office. Pharmaceutical companies can sometimes be contacted for support. Faculty can help you make these contacts. Think of companies that heavily market women’s health products (such as birth control, hormone replacement, drugs for osteoporosis, etc.). As a last resort, “pass the hat.”
  7. Make sure you have supplies; paper and pen for an attendance sheet, blackboards and chalk, or flip charts and markers for recording ideas. Ask all attendees to sign in with whatever information you need to facilitate future communications (phone number, email address, mail box number, etc.).
  8. Brainstorm to develop the group’s ideas for goals, activities, resource people, and future plans. Initially, it is usually best to keep all ideas on the table. Consider waiting until the next meeting to organize and prioritize suggestions that have been made.
  9. Plan the next meeting. Get group consensus on when and where to meet, and on the agenda for the next meeting. Assign people to be responsible for details such as food, follow up, research that needs to be done, etc. Consider using the next meeting to select a governance structure and to prioritize the ideas for activities.
  10. Great! You’ve done it! Now, follow up. Send a summary of the first meeting and all ideas to the list of attendees. You may also want to publicize your summary using the same avenues of communication used previously. As a reminder, be sure to include the date, time and place of the next meeting.

Information for Faculty

  1. If students approach you regarding a student interest club: Congratulations! We suggest finding out from them what their interests are. If you feel you can help them, great! If not, try to suggest colleagues who might be able to do so.
  2. If no students have approached you, but you are interested in having an interest club at your institution: Identify interested students by asking the dean of students, the first-year class president, and faculty who teach in the first year. Or you may advertise in the student newspaper, on websites, or listservs.
    Identify leaders within the student pool who can initiate this process.
  3. If needed, help students with organizational issues and meeting logistics. Provide a meeting room, flip charts, etc. Be present at the first meeting.
  4. Work with students to find funding for food for their meetings. This is especially important for the first meeting. Consider tapping departmental resources such as conference monies, chair’s fund, teaching budget, etc. Also consider pharmaceutical support. This is a source of money that is best accessed by faculty rather than students.
  5. Clarify your role with the student leaders. Ideally, you will function as a facilitator and resource, providing information and connections to help students accomplish their goals. Once they have chosen activities, projects, and topics for discussion, work with them to identify resources they will need to proceed. Provide relevant advice about institutional politics and information about key faculty and administrators. Help students gain access to interested parties.
  6. Clarify with students whether they want you to attend all meetings or only certain events. When they need additional faculty support, help them identify and access resources.
  7. Let the students do the work.

Ideas for Activities

Student interest clubs are as varied as their institutions. There is a huge range of activities and projects. What follows is just an outline of possible directions for a student interest club to explore.

Career Exploration

  • Compare and contrast women’s health careers in different specialties
  • Explore subspecialization options within ob-gyn
  • Explore practice style options (academic, private practice, HMO, underserved populations, etc.)
  • Meet with representatives of these different options; talk with them about how and why they made their choices; sponsor panel discussions
  • Arrange shadowing opportunities in different practice environments
  • Arrange shadowing options with residents in labor and delivery or in the emergency room, etc.

Residency Strategies

  • Sessions about different residency programs
  • Workshops on personal statement writing
  • Workshops on interviewing strategies
  • Information sharing among students
  • Information sharing sessions with house officers who have recently completed the residency selection process

Discussion of Women's Health Issues

  • Identify those issues of greatest interest to the group.
  • Identify speakers who can facilitate discussions.
  • Consider various formats:
    • Journal club
    • Patient-centered discussions
    • Women’s health issues in art, literature and movies
    • Debates about controversial issues
    • Exploration of community resources
    • Visits to community sites
    • Possible topics of interest: Reproductive rights, contraception, abortion, domestic violence, rape, eating disorders, sexual health, menopause and hormone replacement, premenstrual syndrome, osteoporosis, breast disorders, genetic screening issues/preconceptual counseling, depression, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, gender-based differences in medical research, problems of older women, health issues of lesbians, effects of poverty on women, complimentary medicine in women’s health care, obstetrical options (home birth, natural childbirth), breastfeeding

Training Workshops

  • Suturing
  • Knot-tying
  • Breast and pelvic exam
  • Patient communication and counseling
  • Researching women’s health issues

Community Activities

  • Longitudinal follow-up of pregnant woman and family
  • Teen counseling on issues regarding safer sex practices, contraception, sexual decision-making, and sexually transmitted diseases
  • Workshops on domestic violence awareness, recognition, and local resources for the community
  • Workshops on eating disorder awareness, recognition, and referral
  • Work with women’s shelters, reproductive issue advocacy groups, rape prevention and counseling centers, or other volunteer groups in the community
  • Learn what your local resources are for referral

Medical School Activities

  • Curricular evaluation: Where and how are gender specific issues covered in the curriculum?
  • How could the teaching of women’s health issues be improved?
  • What resources does your school need? How can you help to make sure those resources are attained?
  • Suggestions for faculty development

Sources for Funding

The expenses of a student interest club are not huge. Needs include a meeting place, food at least some of the time, photocopying costs, limited secretarial work (which can often be done by students themselves). Other options to explore include:

  • Departmental education funds
  • Medical school student affairs funds
  • Pharmaceutical industry support
  • Individual benefactors
  • Fundraising projects by the club such as bake sales or sponsored races
  • Dues: Some long-established student clubs have annual dues. For new clubs, it may be advisable to stay away from dues until the group is well-established
  • Local practitioner from same teaching institution (could act as mentor as well)
  • ACOG Section officers may have ideas for collaborative activities and funding resources

Conclusion and Contact Information

APGO and ACOG have joined together to provide medical students with a unique opportunity to receive educational resources on women’s health, as well as providing this guide on how to set up an ob-gyn student interest club.

For more information, contact:

ACOG

(202) 863-2532
student@acog.org

APGO

(410) 451-9560
apgoadmin@apgo.org
www.apgo.org