Summer 2019 brought leadership changes to the Association of Yale Alumni in Medicine (AYAM), with three new officers committed to building upon efforts begun over the last decade. “We are very collaborative,” says new President Lillian Oshva, ’96 MD and an emergency medicine physician at NYU Langone. Indeed, on a recent interview conference call, she, Vice President Amy Liebeskind ’98 MD, and Secretary Douglas Berv ’70, ’74 MD all but finished each other’s sentences. Their motivations to serve stem largely from a desire to support the institution that forged them. Says Liebeskind, a radiologist in private practice at Lenox Hill Radiology in New York, “Many of us feel that the medical school directly influenced our careers, and shaped us not just as doctors but as people.” Berv, a psychiatrist in private practice in the New Haven area, adds, “It’s time to give back.”
In keeping with the spirit of the Yale System of Medical Education, which does not rank students, these leaders and the executive committee pool their efforts to shape ideas and clarify initiatives as a team. The purpose of the AYAM is to advance the welfare of the Yale University School of Medicine and to assist its students and its alumni. Six chief areas have emerged as focal points for working committees: mentoring programs; the school’s efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion; local events involving students; video recordings of alumni and luminaries of the school; regional gatherings of local alumni; and development. Any alumnus interested in any of these initiatives, whether as a volunteer or as a beneficiary, should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
AYAM puts great effort into sponsoring mentorship programs; for students, a single connection can offer outsized benefit. Over 300 women have taken part in the Women’s Alumnae-Student Mentorship Program, which pairs women students with alumni mentors based on medical specialty, geographic location, and personal interests. Recently, program efforts have expanded to offer all students, not just women, opportunities for alumni mentorship. A third mentorship program matches international students (this year, about 32 of 110 first-years) with local alumni in order to ease their transition to New Haven and the United States. Alumni are welcome to participate in, maintain, or help grow any of these initiatives. AYAM leadership also welcomes alumni who would like to contribute to the Yale School of Medicine’s efforts regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion, especially those who can help implement support for recruits, students, and alumni who are racial or ethnic minorities, who have disabilities, or who are first-generation college graduates.
In the New Haven vicinity, alumni can participate in many events to support current YSM students and improve their medical school experience. Events include an auction to benefit the homeless and hungry, a formal ball, speed-mentoring for graduate and undergraduate students, mentoring at hackathons, engaging the New Haven community alongside students at a local medical fair on the Yale Day of Service, and presenting stethoscopes to incoming first-years at the White Coat ceremony. For these and other events, interested alumni can check the calendar at the bottom of the Alumni and Friends website, located at https://medicine.yale.edu/alumni/.
At reunions, alumni have participated in brief video interviews sharing their story about how the Yale System of Education affected their personal and professional lives. Doug Berv, who attended both Yale College and YSM, emphasizes that the medical school affected his life even more than the college. These video interviews have proven so popular that all alumni are invited to share their growth experiences via ongoing video interviews, which comprise a ten- to fifteen-minute series of questions filmed either on campus or over an internet video chat.
AYAM’s leadership team aims to expand alumni involvement outside of the Northeast Regional corridor. Though AYAM meetings have historically taken place in New Haven and New York City—and the leadership acknowledges that many events, initially, may be in large urban centers like New York and Boston—the group encourages more far-flung members to offer ideas for social, community service, or intellectual events outside of these geographic areas. AYAM and the YSM Dean’s Office, Oshva explains, would be happy to support that effort.
The initiatives that AYAM leadership is now bringing to fruition are extensions of groundwork that they and others have been laying for years. In addition to Oshva, Liebeskind, and Berv, there are about fifteen members of the executive committee who help spearhead programming. During this time of buzzing energy, there are myriad ways that alumni can not only help each other, but offer expanded opportunities to current and future students. Again, any alumni interested in any of the above initiatives can contact the leadership team at email@example.com. As Dr. Oshva emphasized, “We’re more productive as a group.”