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Unique immersion program allows policymakers to become medical students

Unique Immersion Program Allows Policymakers to Become Medical Students 

Leaders at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center are helping elected officials, policymakers and other community leaders gain new perspectives on what it takes to become a doctor or medical researcher — and how training provided by state-funded academic medical centers directly impacts the health and well-being of Ohio residents.
Through a half-day event called Project Medical Education (PME), an interactive program developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges, participants don’t just get to walk in someone else’s shoes, they also put on a traditional white lab coat, take their medical oath and undergo hands-on training in Ohio State’s Clinical Skills and Education Assessment Center before graduating with an honorary medical degree.

The Value of Experiential Learning

Now in its 15th year at Ohio State, PME has given hundreds of local, state and federal officials an up-close look at how legislation and funding affects the complex medical education system and, eventually, health care delivery — particularly to vulnerable communities.
“For elected officials who face countless, complicated policy issues daily, the interactive nature of this event makes it meaningful and memorable,” says Jennifer Carlson, associate vice president for External Relations and Advocacy at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center.
“After talking to current medical students, residents, researchers and faculty, participants appreciate the financial challenges and rigorous training standards new doctors face,” explains Carlson. “They learn how research improves diagnosis and treatment of common and serious medical conditions. And they leave with new insights that may shape future policies related to medical education, patient care and medical research.”

Better Understanding Leads to Better Access to Care

Carlson knows just how influential this immersive experience can be.
In 2010, she created a PME spinoff called Project Cancer Education to teach central Ohio opinion leaders about the value of cancer clinical trials. After learning about various obstacles that prevent patients with cancer from enrolling in potentially lifesaving clinical trials, some participants partnered with Ohio State to create and pass expansive new legislation.
Now a model statute, that legislation prevents insurance companies from denying routine services to covered cancer patients who receive experimental therapies through clinical trials. Carlson’s program was also adopted by other academic cancer centers and is now used by the National Cancer Institute as a best practice.

Keeping Pace With New Demands

Project Medical Education also helps participants connect the dots between the preparedness of today’s trainees and the readiness of tomorrow’s physicians — especially when it comes to managing our communities’ changing health needs.
Carlson says the opioid crisis is an important and timely example of how Ohio State must constantly evolve its medical education program — and finance those changes.
“PME participants learn about new training protocols we’ve implemented related to pain management and addiction,” says Carlson. “And they see how medical education funding correlates with our ability to address some of the most critical health issues affecting Ohioans.”

Participate in Project Medical Education

If you are an elected official, a federal or state policymaker or member of any of Ohio State’s boards and you wish to attend an upcoming PME event (held quarterly), or learn about other ways to support medical education or research at Ohio State, please email Jennifer Carlson at

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