The American Medical Student Association has recognized the VCU School of Medicine's commitment to educating the next generation of physicians beyond the classroom, presenting three national awards at its March 2019 convention.

"Our medical school's AMSA chapter does a remarkable job, and we're celebrating along with them this well-deserved attention to our chapter's success, its student leaders and the stellar faculty who serve as mentors along the way," says Peter Buckley, M.D., dean of the medical school.

Paul R. Wright Chapter Success Award

Filippa Trikantzopoulou (center), VCU AMSA's Class of 2022 president, accepts the Paul R. Wright Chapter Success Award at the 2019 National AMSA Convention.

With a focus on training future care providers on how to advocate to their legislators and learn to use their voices to challenge the status quo, VCU AMSA received the 2019 Paul R. Wright Chapter Success Award for the second time in three years. The chapter earned the national honor in the top large medical school category for its promotion of AMSA's mission of inspiring future physicians through local events, innovative programming, leadership development and calls to action.

"Our chapter places robust emphasis on having our members' voices heard by advocating directly with legislators," says Elefterios Trikantzopoulos, VCU AMSA's Class of 2021 president. "Most of our held events have focused on training and inspiring our members to write to their legislators, speak with them and share their stories during our advocacy days, and influence future policy making."

In 2018, VCU AMSA held 16 events from letter-writing workshops to advocacy days in Richmond, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., to hosting the national AMSA Advocacy Leadership Summit in November, when 30 medical students from across the country came to the MCV Campus to discuss prescription drug costs and the role of the pharmaceutical industry in medicine and health policy.

Presidential Recognition Award

The Class of 2020's Avanthi Jayaweera (right) is AMSA's sole recipient of the 2019 Presidential Recognition Award.

AMSA also honored the Class of 2020's Avanthi Jayaweera as the sole recipient of the 2019 Presidential Recognition Award. Perry Tsai, M.D., Ph.D., AMSA's immediate past president, praised Jayaweera's leadership and dedication as the 2018-19 AMSA Education and Advocacy Fellow.

"She has been an invigorating force behind our advocacy efforts, an engaging ambassador to our members and our partners, and simply a joy to work with as testified by our leaders and staff," Tsai said.

Awarded annually to a single U.S. medical student, the AMSA Education and Advocacy Fellowship offers recipients a chance to help shape educational and advocacy programming while delving into issues ranging from health care access to global health equity, diversity and social justice.

“Even as a physician, there are lots of factors outside of our clinical scope that affect health,” Jayaweera says. Access to grocery stores with healthy food, living in a safe neighborhood where people can go outside to exercise, and affordable drug prices are only a few of the most obvious.

"As future physicians, we have a real opportunity to address health inequity through advocacy," adds Jayaweera, who holds the Harry and Zackia Scholarship in the School of Medicine. Awarded to students who demonstrate a commitment to community service, the scholarship has covered a portion of her tuition and fees while she is in medical school. 

National Golden Apple Award for Teaching Excellence

Emily Marko, M.D., clerkship director of OB-GYN on the Inova Campus, earned AMSA's only National Golden Apple Award for Teaching Excellence in 2019.

The School of Medicine's accolades continued as Emily Marko, M.D., clerkship director of OB-GYN on the Inova Campus, earned AMSA's only 2019 National Golden Apple Award for Teaching Excellence.

In a nomination letter, one medical student writes of Marko's love of teaching and how it helped the student overcome her nervousness about delivering babies. "Rather than encouraging me to just read, as most recommend, she instead took me to the simulation center, and we practiced deliveries over and over again until I felt prepared.

"What strikes me most about Dr. Marko is that she acknowledges her students' concerns and goes out of her way to empower us through further education."

Marko also helped the student address how to tackle the traditional hierarchy in medicine.

"Dr. Marko took me under her wing and helped me strategize how to overcome these hurdles and become a stronger future leader in medicine. She provided me with tangible skills to look at this system as an opportunity to grow and to not accept a learning style just for the sake of tradition."

Since 1996, the Golden Apple award has highlighted a medical school professor who deserves international acclaim due to their improvement to or advancements in medical education.