UNLV AMSA: The Road to Washington D.C.


The University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Medicine (UNLV SoM), established in 2014, opened its doors to the Founding Charter Class on July 17th, 2017. Since then, the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) chapter at UNLV SoM has come a long way: hosting ZDoggMD, creating partnerships with local physician organizations, securing publications in local medical journals, representing Southern Nevada at the AMSA National Conference earlier this Spring, and receiving accreditation as a nationally recognized AMSA medical school chapter. 

During the Second Look Program on April 23rd, 2017, the first AMSA UNLV SoM meeting was hosted prior to the start of the medical school year by Vladislav Zhitny, who would later serve as the 2017-2018 Chapter President. Zhitny, a first-year medical student, prepared a presentation to help other students learn more about AMSA. These were the first steps to the start of the UNLV SoM AMSA chapter. Zhitny credits the chapter’s active presence in Las Vegas to “realizing that medicine extends beyond traditional science and diagnoses. Medicine also involves practicing our humanity to one another. As members of the founding class in a region that is a medical desert, we realize that we are establishing a framework and example not only for future medical student cohorts, but also for Las Vegas as a whole.”

UNLV School of Medicine’s core values revolve serving the community with compassion and humility. In a class of 60 students, the executive board members knew that as long as the chapter started up strong, it was okay to start out small. Surprisingly, AMSA UNLV SoM became one of the largest student organization at the medical school, comprised of one-third of the class. From day one, the team outlined their open recruitment policy, allowing for anyone interested to attend any of their events. “We wanted to show what we were all about,” said Rovig. At their first general meeting, the chapter was excited to speak on the goals for the upcoming school year such as their planned speaker events, advocacy efforts and mentorship of pre-medical students.

National AMSA President Joey Johnson helped kick off the first official meeting. After the visit, Peña expressed, “We never would have imagined the national president would have made the time to visit us, being a new chapter at a new school, but we are so grateful for all the support we have received from AMSA National. This has undoubtedly helped with our success.” Another impressive speaker event was that of ZDoggMD, a project worked on by the treasurer, Chase Shropshire, over a period of six months. ZDoggMD made time to speak to the students on Healthcare 3.0, which focused on the ethical and logistical future of health-related information on the web. With the help of Historian, Alex Ma, whose flyers help publicize the speaker events, and undoubtedly because of ZDoggMD’s reputation as an internet comedian, there was an amazing turn out for his talk - including medical students and physician residents in attendance. Many of the students have grown up hearing his amusing take on important issues in the medical profession. “I loved the enthusiasm,” ZDogg said, “it’s a great school with great kids. I was happy to be able talk to them.”

To expand outreach and initiatives, AMSA joined forces with other organizations on campus and in the community. The chapter partnered with the Medical Supply Reserve on campus to reduce medical waste by collecting unused medical supplies and donating them to free clinics in town. This was led by Nicholas Vaughn and Alexander Lin. The AMSA chapter also reached out to Clark County Medical Society (CCMS), a non-profit advocacy driven physician organization in Southern Nevada. Through the partnership, medical and pre-medical AMSA students were able to volunteer at local political events including CCMS Opioid Town Hall event. This town hall educated physicians and opened up discussion on new state legislative approaches to fighting the opioid epidemic in the state of Nevada. They further extended efforts through partnership with the undergraduate AMSA pre-med chapter, led by the undergraduate President, Savannah Spataro. The chapter Vice President Michael Briones and Secretary Pena established a mentorship program for the undergraduates preparing to apply to medical schools. 

The budget that AMSA UNLV SoM started off with was limited and presented an obstacle in hosting multiple original events throughout the school year. To overcome this hurdle, Zhitny reached out to the Clark County Medical Society (CCMS). CCMS is a non-profit, advocacy driven physician organization in Southern Nevada. Through the partnership, medical and pre-medical AMSA students were able to volunteer together at local political events including the CCMS Opioid Town Hall event.

Further advocacy efforts are planned for the next school year, including battling the opioid epidemic in Southern Nevada and on increasing residency spots within this region. When reflecting on AMSA UNLV SoM’s past year, Zhitny expressed, “It gets difficult; it’s a lot of work. Being part of a team means that despite the occasional disagreement, taking into account everyone’s ideas and perspectives helps create something meaningful. Our legacy will be here for years to come.”