Students Learn to Tackle Sensitive and Taboo Topics Together

AMWA board members (from left): Sunita Sridhar, Patience Gallagher, Kimberly Gergelis, Donya Eizadkhah and Carly Hirschberg
AMWA board members (from left): Sunita Sridhar, Patience Gallagher, Kimberly Gergelis, Donya Eizadkhah and Carly Hirschberg

This spring, the Einstein chapter of the American Medical Women's Association (AMWA) organized the Let's Talk About…Fair, an event aimed at educating medical students about how to effectively communicate with patients concerning topics related to health and sexuality that may be considered taboo. More than 75 Einstein medical students attended the first-time event.

In addition, more than 40 students representing various Einstein interest groups and clubs–including the American Medical Student Association, Einstein Pride, Surgery Interest Group, Muslim Student Association, Homeless Outreach Program at Einstein, Medical Students for Choice, Einstein Community Health Outreach–hosted interactive booths that featured diverse topics such as human trafficking, women's health, sexual concerns of adolescents and of LGBT communities, and HIV and sexually-transmitted diseases.

"Our goal was to share information that would enable us, as future physicians, to better communicate with our patients about these topics in order to, ultimately, provide better care," said Kimberly Gergelis, secretary of Einstein's AMWA chapter.

"It's important for our students to be aware of and be prepared to address a multitude of patient issues in a caring and sensitive manner," added Dr. Nadine T. Katz, medical director, Einstein campus, at Montefiore Medical Center who serves as faculty advisor to the group. "The fair offered a safe, open environment through which they could learn about and discuss these topics."

 Sex reassignment surgery was the topic of interest at the Surgery Interest Group's booth, where attendees were provided information about surgical techniques available for gender transition, risks associated with the procedure and postoperative complications. "A common question was whether the surgery was covered by health insurance," noted Helena Wu, one of the organizers at the booth.

The Einstein chapter of Medical Students for Choice (MSFC)—an international organization that strives to dispel the stigma associated with abortion and supports pro-choice activists and physicians—offered information on abortion care, while also demonstrating how to insert an intra-uterine contraceptive device and how to perform manual vacuum aspiration abortions. They also handed out a questionnaire to participants to see how much they knew about access to abortion care in the United States.

AMWA tackled the sensitive issue of domestic violence by informing participants on how to use RADAR, a domestic violence intervention tool that helps to identify victims and provide them with counseling and support services. They also hosted a "Myth or Fact" game aimed at shedding light on commonly held myths about domestic violence.
At the booth focused on human trafficking, attendees received guidelines on how to identify and treat victims, and how to coordinate with the National Human Trafficking Resource Center for further action. "Our objective was to help students realize that they can have a role in eradicating these crimes," asserted Donya Eizadkhah, vice president of Einstein's AMWA chapter, who was working at the booth.

The Muslim Students Association addressed issues of contraception, abortion and sexuality in the context of Islam. "One of the most common questions was about how to approach an observant Muslim patient," said Ul Weena, who headed the booth. "Our advice was to be respectful and accommodating of the patient's beliefs during the course of treatment, and to make them feel comfortable."

The Let's Talk About…Fair ended on a fun note, with a raffle for tickets to the Museum of Sex and a selection of stylish Einstein gear. "Overall, the event was a great success," noted Ms. Gergelis. "We got great feedback about how unique and informative everything was."  


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