Hi all, I'm a medical student and was thinking about starting a secular medical student group.  Does anyone know of other ones?  I talked to Secular Student Alliance and they didn't, but I thought I should ask here.

Thanks,

Mike



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Rachel and Mike,

My name is Dan Riley and I'm a field organizer with CFI On Campus -- http://centerforinquiry.net/oncampus/. We are currently affiliated with over 200 student groups throughout the world, all of which can be seen at http://centerforinquiry.net/oncampus/groups/. Right now, we do not have any student groups that have been created solely by medical students. Of course, we would love to have some.

Have either of you begun the process of trying to create a student group at your med school? Regardless, I hope CFI On Campus can be a good resource for you two in that process.

Please let me know what you think. I can be found online or e-mailed directly at driley@centerforinquiry.net. I look forward to hearing from both of you.

Dan
Hi Dan - I haven't set about doing so in earnest because I want to get the opinion of a few secular professors I admire before I do anything. We do already have two atheist groups on campus, though neither are specifically for med students, and neither are CFI-afiliated - it's essentially worked out that one is the graduate students, and one is the undergrads, which kind of works out socially. But I'll definitely keep this list updated with my decisions and ask you for support if I go forward. -Mike
Please do, Mike. I'm guessing you already have the info for Rational Thought, the student group at UCSD, but id you don't, here's their facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=252652208339.

We would certainly love to have you as an affiliate group and could help you in that process. As I'm guessing you've noticed, you'd be amazed at how frequently dogma can get in the way of scientific progress -- we need more groups like the one you're talking about creating. Stay in touch and best of luck!

Dan
Yep, sure do. Are we (I'm active with them) already an affiliate? If so, I'm glad that other people in the group are more aware of these things than I am!
Hey Michael,

Yes, Rational Thought is indeed affiliated with us. Our entire affiliated group listing, along with all of our affiliated groups in California, can be seen at http://centerforinquiry.net/oncampus/groups/.

I look forward to staying in touch -- please let me know if you need any help or guidance.

Dan

Hi Mike,

 

Have you got an update on this issue? I would also like to start a group at my uni. The medical campus is quite separate from everything else which would make a med student focus easy.

 

I have a few concerns about how the whole idea would go down also, so will be interested to read up on Dan's links and hear anything new from yourself.

Cheers

(NOTE FOR ASPIRING PRE-MEDS - SEE *****'S BELOW)

Hi Nealie,

I'm glad there's been so much interest and feel bad that I haven't been able to follow up this discussion!  Thanks for your prompt, because now I have a reason to summarize what I've learned and decided so far.

First, I'm fortunate to be at a university where most of the med students are pretty unreligious (e.g., someone posted a video of Richard Dawkins observing a giraffe's left recurrent laryngeal being dissected, and no one said a word; professors make spaghetti monster comments during lecture, etc.)  I say this to emphasize that at your insitution, you may be more interested
in creating a home for atheist medical students where they can feel comfortable and open, vs a place where you can make theists feel comfortable talking with atheists.  Your goals will probably vary depending on your environment.

I should also add that Sean Faircloth of the Secular Coalition strongly emphasized to me that physicians get public credibility points as a physician that he only dreams of having as a career politican and lobbyist - so don't forget about that!


Now, specifically about the group:

1) First problem with doing this is just time.  All medical students are busy.  In the U.S., typically 2nd and 3rd year are the worst.  Therefore if you don't start the group early on, you're not
going to start it, and people aren't going to have enough time to come to it.  Another key is that during your first week when there are often med student orgs welcoming new students and giving out bagels and coffee or whatever, the Christian group(s) are usually there - where are the atheist groups?

Therefore, *****ALL YOU ASPIRING PRE-MEDS OUT THERE***** - as soon as you get your acceptance, start making your plans THEN!  Call the student affairs office wherever you'll be going, find out what it takes to start a student org, and have it as ready to roll as you can once you hit the doors on Day 1, and you can be sitting there handing out bagels and coffee next to the Christians.  Then build the community with the goal of handing it off to someone in the class after you after your first year.  If you're at an institution where you're paranoid about doing this officially and explicitly, then try to contact other students prior to starting classes (many schools do this) and sniff out who's atheist, and do the group on your own.

2) If I started a group despite being a second year, rather than making it an explicit "medical student atheist group", I'd like to be a medical student "rational morality in tough cases group".  (Note the dog-whistle term "rational" to alert all the atheists that you're there.)  This serves several functions:  a) preparing us to make well-grounded decisions about patient care.  Isn't
the effect of people's behavior in the real world and in particular on medical interventions and research why we worry about theism in the first place?  b) Theists are welcome to come.  Social contact with nonreligious pepole who are clearly just as concerned about moral issues as they are is one of the most effective ways to soften religious beliefs. c) Having a medical student-run group would let us speak more freely.  We already have an institution-run tough cases group. 
From everything I've seen, it's a well-run and fair group, but as in all medical training, realistically I would be very nervous to go to such a group and express what might be a controversial opinion in front of higher-ups responsible for my (very subjective) performance grades.  (That's not fear of anti-atheist reprisal, that's just justified med student paranoia!)  But there would be no such possibility of censure from a group of peers, making us an effective way of understanding the moral dimensions of a case.

3) The easiest aproach would be to just encourage people to go to the atheist groups already on campus.  (We atheists like to start new groups instead of working with existing ones so always go this route first if you can.)  Unfortunately medical students either have their own campus as in your case, or are often quite insular within their own academic institutions and trying to get them to go to something that's either a) not for credit or b) not with other medical students is often a losing proposition.  But if neither of those conditions obtains then this might be the way to go.

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