In 1993, students at medical schools from around the country established Medical Students for Choice (MSFC), an organization committed to training abortion providers and pro-choice physicians—and to ensuring that women have access to the full range of reproductive healthcare options. The following year, Dr. Jennifer Petrillo, then a second-year Einstein medical student, established an MSFC chapter at the College of Medicine—one of the first in the nation.
Dr. Petrillo recalled how Dr. Albert Kuperman, Einstein's then-associate dean for educational affairs, was very supportive of the group. "He also introduced a family planning elective at Einstein." The course is still offered to fourth-year students.
In the 20 years since its inception, MSFC has come a long way, now boasting 159 chapters in 12 countries worldwide. And, Einstein's longstanding commitment remains ever strong. It was in evidence this past fall, when eight Einstein students attended the organization's annual conference, held in Denver, Colorado. Among the Einstein students was Sarp Aksel, class of 2015, who is serving as the international organization's current president and chair of the board of directors.
At the conference, more than 300 international medical and nursing students joined with 40 medical school faculty and MSFC alumni to mark the milestone anniversary. Among the event's session facilitators was Dr. Marji Gold, professor of family and social medicine at Einstein and director of the Center for Reproductive Health Education in Family Medicine at Einstein's University Hospital, Montefiore Medical Center.
Mr. Aksel's leadership role represents a tradition among Einstein students in line with the chapter's steadfast involvement with MSFC. Other Einstein students who have held national positions include Dr. Melissa Figueroa, class of 2013, a former board member and nominating committee co-chair, Dr. Miran
The Einstein MSFC chapter also has gained insights from Dr. Hillary Kunins, one of the student activists who founded the organization in 1993. Dr. Kunins completed her residency in internal medicine at Montefiore. She served as director of the Einstein-Montefiore residency program in primary care-social internal medicine from 2007 to 2012. She is currently assistant commissioner at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, where she leads the department's Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Use Prevention, Care and Treatment.
Current leadership of the Einstein chapter includes second-year students Evan Tamura, Jesse Berman and Ian Downs, while Dr. Gold serves as faculty advisor.
The group recently hosted two successful events. The first, held on October 16, 2013, offered an informal dinner at which Dr. Gold led a clinical question and answer session on abortion attended by 30 medical students. "As future clinicians, it's important for us to have a basic understanding of what an abortion actually is and to be mindful that, regardless of our personal beliefs, we will inevitably treat patients who have had or want to have an abortion," said Ms. Tamura.
On December 5, nearly 70 students turned out for a panel discussion on religion and abortion. Panelists included a Jewish emergency medicine physician who also is a rabbi; a Catholic family physician; and a Muslim imam.
"Hearing the various perspectives from the clergy is helpful," noted Mr. Aksel. "As physicians in training, it's our responsibility to learn about all aspects of medicine so that we can provide our future patients with the best possible care."
He added, "Abortion is a safe and legal medical procedure in this country. We're committed to ensuring that it is accessible to women everywhere."
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