Universal coverage and diversity issues will be among the topics addressed at the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) 51st Annual National Convention, set for March 28-April 1 at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, Calif.

The theme of AMSA's convention is "Take the Challenge! Student Action for Zero Health Disparities." Nearly 2,000 premedical and medical students, international medical students, residents and interns, physicians (including AMSA alumni), and other activists from across the country will gather for five days of innovative workshops, inspirational keynote addresses and organizational policymaking.

AMSA was founded in 1950 to provide medical students a chance to participate in organized medicine. In the 1960s, the association refocused its energies on the problems of the medically underserved, inequities in our health-care system and related issues in medical education. Since 1968, AMSA has been a fully independent, student-led organization.

AMSA continues to be an activist organization, with its members providing more than 1 million person-hours of community service every year. Over 300,000 physicians began their medical careers by participating in AMSA programs, and many of those activist students have moved on to become leaders within the medical community. For more than 30 years, AMSA has been dedicated to the principle that health care is a basic human right.

Keynote Addresses
"Besides the very interesting and stimulating seminars and workshops, we are thrilled to have a great slate of speakers," said Sindhu Srinivas, M.D., AMSA's national president (2000-2001). Keynote speakers will include: Christopher Elias, M.D., founder of Programs for Appropriate Technology in Health (Wed., 3/28); Rear Admiral Kenneth P. Moritsugu, M.D., M.P.H., U.S. Deputy Surgeon General, (3/29); Neil Shulman, M.D., author of 'Doc Hollywood,' which was made into a motion picture with Michael J. Fox (Fri. 3/30); local Los Angeles U.S. Representative Maxine Waters (Sat., 3/31); and America Bracho, M.D., a Santa Ana physician and founder of Latino Health Access (Sun., 4/1).

"Eliminating Health Disparities: A Challenge for Us All."
As part of AMSA's national convention, a series of plenary sessions will be held debating and discussing various aspects of the larger issues of universal health care and disparities in health care. The four sessions will feature experts from various fields to present informative and serious discussions with convention attendees.

-- Faces of Medicine: A Mirror for Medical Students: Medical students representing a broad cross-section of the underrepresented groups spectrum-women, disabled, ethnic and racial minorities, and gay, lesbian and bisexual students -- will introduce and discuss different disparities, biases and interactions that occur within medicine during the first plenary session scheduled for March 30, at 11:00 a.m.

-- Fair Practices: Patient Protections: Dr. Quentin Young, one of the nation's foremost health reform activists, will moderate a panel of patients from different local California communities discussing their own experiences and interactions with physicians and the health care system during the second plenary session set for Friday, March 31, at 1 p.m. Dr. Young will then lead an interactive discussion about the importance of universal access to health care in the fight to eliminate health disparities.

-- Affirmative Action: Will it Stay or Fade Away? The issue of recent drawbacks on affirmative action policies and the impact on admissions to medical schools will be addressed during a plenary session set for Saturday, March 31, at 11:30 a.m.

-- Eliminating Health Disparities: Making it Happen: Dr. Nathan Stinson, director of the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will lead a discussion about the emerging realities of health disparities in our nation and the necessity for medical student activism during the fourth and final plenary session set for Sat., March 31, at 2:30 p.m.

Convention Programming."
The program also includes many other workshops and seminars for those attending the convention. "With titles ranging from 'Finding Synergy Between Relationship-Centered Care and the Striking Progress of Biomedical Science and Technology' and 'The Black Biomedical Research Movement: An Effort to Develop a Functional Relationship between Medical Professionals and their Black Patients' to 'Update on the Tobacco Wars' and 'No Free Lunch: The Physician-Pharmaceutical Company Relationship'" Srinivas says, "there will be numerous panels, discussion groups, focus groups, and clinical skills sessions during the five days of this convention that will enlighten, inspire and complement traditional medical education."

AMSA's House of Delegates."
As AMSA's official policy-making body, the House of Delegates is a delegation of AMSA members from each local medical chapter who meet once a year at the Annual Convention to vote on AMSA's policies and to elect national officers. The HOD is open to all members of AMSA to speak and vote. Members debate the issues, make amendments and cast votes that shape AMSA's policies. Most importantly, any member of AMSA has the right to write and submit resolutions to the House of Delegates. This year, AMSA's HOD will debate policies on issues such as collective bargaining and physician unionization, pass-fail grading at medical schools and tuition concerns, and the use of non-violent direct action as a strategy for activism.

Exhibit Hall."
One of the highlights of AMSA's 51st Annual National Convention is the 100-booth exhibit hall. Exhibitors include: book publishers, specialty societies, residency training programs, test preparation services, medical device companies and advocacy organizations. There are no designated areas for specific groups, so expect a good mix of product and service exhibitors that medical student attendees can tap for many of their needs.