Med students across the US are working to get their classmates to the polls in November.
You don’t have to be a political junkie to be absorbed by the news this election season. But even civically minded medical students, mired in exams and clinical rotations, may feel that voting should take a backseat to their studies.
Not so, says Aaron Shapiro MD’18, founder of the student group Citizen Physicians at Alpert Medical School, which aims to increase civic engagement among its fellow med students.
“Physicians—just like every other citizen—have a civic responsibility to vote,” Shapiro says. “We work to find ways to decrease barriers to engagement. This is a very important election year and we want to make sure that medical students across the country are able to participate.”
Their goal is not small. Citizen Physicians, which has chapters at five other medical schools, aims to get every medical student in the nation registered to vote in time for the November 8 election. Their National Medical Student Voter Registration Campaign is reaching out to medical schools across the US to organize voter registration drives and get the word out to students that yes, they can—and should—make the time to vote. So far 35 schools are participating, and more sign up every week, Shapiro says.
“I’ve heard from medical students across the country that there really isn’t any voice encouraging medical students to register to vote,” he says. “We want them to know that their administrations support them and encourage them to take this time.”
In August, Citizen Physicians welcomed Alpert Medical School’s first-year students with a voter registration drive and helped them navigate concerns about where they should register—locally or in their home states—as well as how to request absentee ballots.
To make any good habit last a lifetime, it’s best to start early. That’s why targeting medical students is important. “Physicians vote significantly less than the national average,” Shapiro says. “We heard from so many students across the country how needed this kind of programming is, which is why we decided to take this campaign to the national scale.”
Any medical student who organizes a voter registration drive at their school (especially focusing on registering first-year students at the start of next academic year) will receive a Citizen Physicians lapel pin for their white coat.