Georgetown University School of Medicine: Protect Students' Access to Medical Education

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It is a privilege to attend Georgetown University School of Medicine (GUSOM), where we all live and breathe our value of Cura Personalis, or "Care of the Whole Person". Recent GUSOM initiatives have focused on cultivating a diverse and inclusive campus, which ensures students become physicians who embrace all dimensions of diversity in order to serve the growing health care needs of the diverse populations they serve. We are deeply concerned by the recent decision made by GUSOM administration to prevent an abortion and miscarriage management training from occurring on campus. This decision contradicts policies set forth by the administration to promote the free exchange of ideas. We acknowledge the importance of respecting Georgetown University’s Jesuit Catholic tradition. However, denying students the ability to facilitate educational opportunities undermines their access to a comprehensive medical education, which is contradictory to the spirit of Cura Personalis.

GUSOM’s mission is to generate “knowledgeable, ethical, skillful and compassionate physicians”. To support this mission, a core competency required of all medical students is to “perform general clinical procedures required to provide basic patient care”. We understand abortion is not permitted in Catholic hospitals by the Ethical and Religious Directives and therefore not permitted at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC). However, many medical students at GUSOM will go on to careers that require abortion and miscarriage management. According to the CDC, there were 188 abortions per every 1,000 live births in the U.S. in 2015. Miscarriages are even more common with up to 1 in 4 confirmed pregnancies ending in miscarriage. Given the frequency of these medical conditions, it is undeniable that knowledge of their management constitutes “basic patient care”. Since GUSOM provides no formal training on these skills, Medical Students for Choice, an “unofficial” student-run club, aims to fill this gap in the curriculum with an annual event called “the Papaya Workshop”. This workshop, facilitated by attending physicians, teaches students about first trimester abortion and miscarriage management using papayas. It is very well attended by students, which demonstrates the desire for students to obtain these skills. It has also been successfully facilitated on campus premises for the past 2 years under direct knowledge and support of the medical school administration.

This event is being held without any funding or resources from Georgetown University. Medical Students for Choice has followed all policies set forth by the administration, such as not posting this event on the official school event calendars and not using school email listservs to advertise this event. We have been informed the main concern surrounding this event is the use of space on the medical school premises. This is in direct contradiction of the Georgetown University’s Access to Benefits Policy and GUSOM Student Handbook Appendix W which states unofficial clubs which do not align with Jesuit Catholic values can reserve space on campus. The events which take place under this policy are not endorsed by the University, but serve as a way to “facilitate the student’s role as an active member of the academic community.” Medical Students for Choice has reserved space at the medical school several times per year in compliance with this policy.

Furthermore, in contrast with all other clubs at GUSOM, Medical Students for Choice receives no University funding.  Hosting an event off-campus necessitates renting community space, and for a club that receives no institutional funding, this decision effectively cancels the event. Actively denying students the opportunity to learn about a legal and safe medical procedure while in training at Georgetown is a disservice to students’ education and career preparation and is in direct opposition with the GUSOM mission.

We ask the administration to allow Medical Students for Choice to follow Access to Benefits Policy and allow the club to host all its events on campus. Students deserve a comprehensive and culturally competent medical education that promotes the free exchange of ideas and the practice of evidence-based medicine. We appreciate your time and consideration of our request. We hope you will decide to promote the needs of students and support their continued medical education.

Authors:

Allix Hillebrand

Griselda Potka

Allison O'Connell

Emory Buck

Libby Wetterer

Manisha Sigdel

Alena Hoover

Johan Clarke

Jesus Martinez

Lauren Barrison

Lauren Klingman

Maura Thornton

Jeannie Folan

Anika Clark

Erin Conn

Aileen Fernandez

Alicia Khan

Andrew McLaughlin