When Margaret Miller ponders her career path, the fourth-year medical student at East Tennessee State University's Quillen College of Medicine sees herself in a teaching and mentoring role.
"I hope to teach or work with students as a resident," she said. "I see myself teaching or being part of academic medicine. There's not enough primary care leadership in our medical schools."
Miller already has plenty of leadership experience on her resume. She has been a regional coordinator for the AAFP's family medicine interest group network and has served on the Academy's Commission on Education and Commission on Membership and Member Services. She recently was an alternate delegate to the AMA Medical Student Section during that organization's annual House of Delegates meeting.
This week brings the culmination of a yearlong process in her role as student chair of the National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students, which begins July 25 in Kansas City, Mo. In addition to the many educational and networking opportunities included in this event, the National Congress of Student Members will convene to discuss and vote on policy measures and to elect new officers during the conference, as will the National Congress of Family Medicine Residents.
"I've always been interested in working for what students want and need," said Miller, who has helped plan the event with resident chair Anna Askari, M.D., of Eisenhower Medical Center Family Medicine Residency in Rancho Mirage, Calif., and AAFP staff. "This was the logical next-step position. We want to provide students with the type of sessions they need and an opportunity to be engaged in organizational medicine through the congress and have the opportunity to make change."
Miller said she was hooked on family medicine early. During a medical school interview at ETSU, Miller said Reid Blackwelder, M.D. -- then Quillen's vice chair of medical student education and now its chair of family medicine -- encouraged her to read T.R. Reid's The Healing of America. Reid, an outspoken advocate for primary care, outlined in his best seller how other industrialized nations have been able to provide universal health care for their citizens at lower costs than those seen in the U.S. health care system.
"There are other countries doing things better than us when it comes to health care," she said. "Dr. Blackwelder asked me to think about health on a broader scale."
Miller said that in addition to teaching, she plans to practice broad-scope family medicine, likely in rural Tennessee. She hopes the students who attend National Conference this week can explore and appreciate the possibilities the specialty's wide scope of practice offers. The event offers more than a dozen clinical workshops, as well as sessions related to career planning, advocacy, research, practice management and, of course, leadership. There also are networking and social events and an expo hall featuring representatives from hundreds of family medicine residency programs.
"We were really intentional in showing the breadth of family medicine as much as we could," she said. "Our theme is 'Explore More,' and I hope students really get the opportunity to explore things that maybe they didn't expect to see and get inspired to choose family medicine by something they saw at National Conference."