Upstate MD/PhD student elected to national medical board

SUNY Upstate MD/PhD student

Sam Mackenzie, a student in Upstate's MD/PhD program, will begin a one-year term on the American Medical Association Board of Trustees in June. He is the first Upstate student elected to the post. File photo by Robert Mescavage.

Upstate MD/PhD student Sam Mackenzie has been elected to the American Medical Association Board of Trustees, a first for Upstate in the 30 years students have held an AMA trustee seat.

With representatives from the nation’s medical schools voting, Sam outpolled two other students for the lone Student Section position on the 21-member AMA board.

Sam is a third-year medical student who earned his PhD in Neuroscience at Upstate last year; he will begin his one-year AMA term in June.

The AMA trustees include physicians, one student representative and one member of the public. Their mission is to guide the AMA in setting standards and policy for the medical profession.

Sam, from Groton, NY, will replace current student representative Ryan Ribeira, a fourth-year medical student at UC Davis School of Medicine and an MPH student at the Harvard School of Public Health.

A focus of Sam’s campaign was ensuring the stability of funding for Graduate Medical Education.

“In the last seven years, making sure there are enough residency spots is an issue that’s really taken off,” he said. “I’d like to see the AMA develop model legislation that will provide smarter funding of residency positions.”

Sam also hopes to be active in the AMA’s efforts to improve undergraduate medical education, physician satisfaction and public health outcomes, and would like to increase physician membership in the AMA.

As America’s health care system continues to evolve, Sam said, it’s up to physicians and medical students to establish a comprehensive and cost-effective system of delivering care. “That’s a tough task, but I think the AMA is in a good position to help make that goal a reality,” he said.

Sam is in the midst of his third-year clerkships at Upstate, with surgery, pediatrics and psychiatry remaining. After he assumes his AMA board duties at the annual meeting in Chicago, he will attend meetings with legislative officials on health policy and medical education issues.

SUNY Upstate neuroscience

Sam Mackenzie with his research mentor, Neurosurgery professor Blair Calancie, PhD. File photo by Bill Mueller.

Sam will share medical students’ viewpoints and concerns with lawmakers, and try to keep students engaged in issues affecting them now and in the future – including loan debt and GME funding.

“Both are closely tied to ensuring that we have enough doctors 10, 20, 30 years down the road,” he said. “It gets back to patient access.”

Participation in policy discussions is nothing new to Sam. He has been involved with the AMA and the Medical Society of the State of New York since his first year at Upstate. Last year he served on the AMA’s Council on Medical Service and authored an MSSNY resolution strengthening its position supporting a moratorium on high-volume hydrofracturing.

“MSSNY has been incredibly supportive of me,” he said. “I feel very fortunate to be able to say that I trained in New York State.”

Sam graduated  in 2005 from Cornell University, where he also ran track and cross-country; in 2007 he earned a Master’s degree in Exercise Science from the University of Delaware. He earned his PhD at Upstate last May, is on track to get his MD in 2015 and would like to specialize in neurology or pediatric neurology.

Sam lives in Syracuse with his wife, freelance journalist Natalie Gingerich, and their son, Henry.

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