By: Amar Alkhafaji and Mitchell Booth
3rd Place – Writing Competition 2020
Dear loved ones back home,
It has been almost two years since we made the decision to join the cause. Our post in Des Moines is reaching the end of another long winter, and spring has breathed new life in the world around us. I remember a time when we were bright eyed and full of zeal. Now, many long nights of learning and growing have made us seasoned soldiers, prepared for the battles to come. We are not alone. From the bustling streets of New York to the Golden coasts of California, our fellow brothers and sisters are eager to fight for our common goal: increasing access to quality lower extremity care for those who need it most. To achieve this ultimate objective, we must emerge victorious from the battles of today while anticipating the many more to come. Our numbers may be small but united, we are a force to be reckoned with.
This conflict spans multiple fronts. We have fought for decades for just privileges and consistent compensation with our allopathic and osteopathic physician counterparts. At risk populations around the country are constantly denied access to necessary podiatric services because of outdated insurance policies. Additionally, many of our own are prohibited from using their full breadth of expertise to care for patients in their own communities. Student recruitment and efforts to increase awareness among the public are growing, but haven’t reached full potential. Our organization, the American Podiatric Medical Students’ Association (APMSA), is composed of the future generation of podiatric surgeons. We are dedicated to triumph in this conquest.
Although the APMSA has seen much success over the course of the past few years, future victories are dependent upon the recruitment of motivated individuals sympathetic to our cause.
The APMSA’s forces are widespread, acting in many regions across the country. In Washington D.C., the APMSA Legislative division fights hard. These are the soldiers who put plans into actions. These men and women have seen their fair share of hardships. But after seven years of persistent planning and lobbying, their sacrifices contributed to a major victory; the passing of the MISSION Act in 2018. This policy places podiatric physicians on par with their allopathic and osteopathic colleagues within the VA system. Now with podiatrists being officially recognized as physicians within the VA system, patients have better access to high quality foot and ankle care.
This victory was in large part due to the tactful and calculated strategies carried out by the Legislative division of the APMSA. Powerful advances were made through various organized marches on Capitol Hill. Additionally, other efforts were implemented such as coordinating national e-advocacy days. This tactic, although more subtle, allowed the members of the Legislative division to call on the help of their podiatry student colleagues. Fellow podiatry students and other healthcare medical students alike joined together to send thousands of letters to their local state representatives in support of the MISSION Act. Because of the dedication of healthcare students and APMSA members, state representatives from all around the country were made aware of our cause.
Though an exciting victory, the Legislative division wasted no time celebrating. This was the first of many battles which lay ahead. With this blueprint for success, similar strategies are being implemented. The Legislative committee’s next angle is ensuring the passage of the HELLPP Act. On April 9, 2019, the Legislative division once again called upon student members to blitz the country with letters to their local state representatives. As the DMU brigade, we provided extra rations (in the form of chocolate chip cookies) to the brave students willing to contribute to the fight and make their voices heard. With the combined efforts of all nine brigades, more than 2,000 letters were sent on that Wednesday afternoon.
The Legislative division is not the only body involved in the cause. The Student Government Association Presidents of each brigade are constantly working to boost their student-soldiers’ morale. These hard-working leaders join together to form the Presidents’ division. Each year, this special task force organizes the Academic and Athletic Conference (AAC) in Nashville, Tennessee. The AAC offers an optimal time for all the APMSA’s divisions to congregate in a central location and strategize future campaigns. After a long day of deliberation, soldiers from all nine brigades compete in a basketball tournament. The AAC serves as a training ground for soldiers from each brigade to enhance discipline and cooperation.
Although the APMSA has seen much success over the course of the past few years, future victories are dependent upon the recruitment of motivated individuals sympathetic to our cause. We are only as strong as the members we represent. Podiatric medicine is an incredible profession that too few are aware of. To help increase awareness, recent operations have been put in motion. The Student Recruitment division provides materials for fellow students to spread awareness of podiatric medicine at their local undergraduate universities. To strengthen this operation, we plan to grant a scholarship to benefit the students who are actively engaged in these recruitment efforts. In addition, the APMSA Public Relations division is working tirelessly to develop a social media presence where even more outreach can be achieved. The Student Recruitment division’s efforts, in conjunction with the Public Relations, are expected to increase the number of highly qualified recruits to the profession of podiatric medicine.
We write to you with a sense of optimistic urgency to continue the important work our predecessors started many years ago. We envision a profession unhindered by the barriers of today and well equipped to handle the obstacles of tomorrow.
U.S. President Grover Cleveland once said, “A cause worth fighting for is worth fighting for to the end.” Looking back at the path paved by those before us instills a deep sense of inspiration to better the future of our profession. Along with the rapid evolution of podiatric medicine comes the concurrent responsibility of addressing the pertinent issues that arise. It is our duty as the APMSA to meet these challenges with unwavering devotion. The toil will be immense and the sacrifices great, but our spirits are high. It is emboldening to know that we serve as a single, yet essential, cog in a wheel which is driving podiatric medicine forward. We write to you with a sense of optimistic urgency to continue the important work our predecessors started many years ago. We envision a profession unhindered by the barriers of today and well equipped to handle the obstacles of tomorrow. Until then, await our return with the knowledge that better access to limb- and life-saving care is just a few steps away.
The DMU brigade of the American Podiatric Medical Students’ Association
By: Amar Alkhafaji and Mitchell Booth
Student Organization: American Podiatric Medical Students’ Association
School: Des Moines University College of Podiatric Medicine and Surgery
A Letter From The Front Lines
3rd Place – Writing Competition 2020
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