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The school offered clarified policies to help support students exercise their right to vote.

IU School of Medicine committee clarifies policy for students to support voting in 2020 election

Red, white and blue voting buttons

The IU School of Medicine Curriculum Council Steering committee recently approved clarifications to the Schedule Conflicts and Time Away form to specify procedures for voting for students. The purpose of this clarification is to support students’ right to vote. Previous studies have shown that doctors vote less often than the general population.

“Medical training is incredibly rigorous. Our hope is that these policy clarifications will ensure that an IU School of Medicine education provides opportunities for students to exercise their rights,” Paul Ko, MD, MEd, Associate Dean for Curricular Development and Oversight said.

In addition to these efforts, Niki Messmore, Program Director of Community and Civic Engagement, recently launched the IU School of Medicine Voter Outreach Coalition to support nonpartisan voter registration and education efforts. She also created a General Election Voter Guide to provide guidance for students on the democratic process.

“Although we’ve seen increases in graduate and professional students voting at our University, most of this happens on Election Day,” Messmore said. “This will be challenging in a pandemic and due to schedules during medical training. Our efforts will especially focus on encouraging early voting if possible.”

While medical students are expected to be responsible for and actively participate in patient care on a regular basis, school leaders encourage student learners to have the additional opportunity to vote on issues that will directly and indirectly affect the future of healthcare and the patients they serve.

“Educating the next generation of doctors rests not only in the ability to manage patients but also in the capacity for students to recognize the importance of health issues on a macroscopic level,” Jennifer Schwartz, Assistant Dean for Medical Student Education, Phase 2 said.

Indiana voter registration closes on October 5.

Policy clarifications for all phases medical curriculum are provided below:

Phase 2 and Phase 3 Clarification

Students on clinical rotations are expected to use early voting to avoid conflicts with their required clinical rotations whenever possible. This minimizes time away from duties and helps students avoids long lines that sometime can occur at voting centers on Election Day.

Also, students are directed to for absentee voting. Students with out-of-state residency should refer to their state voting guidelines, and should review their state’s Secretary of State website or county election board.

Students who need to vote in-person on Election Day must submit a Time Away Request Form at least one month prior to the election date with the phrase “Election Voting Day” in the Purpose of Absence section. As a professional expectation for Phase 2 and 3 students working in clinical teams, it is expected to touch base with your clerkship director/coordinator to determine the best timing to plan your time away from the clerkship. For example, is rounding going to be in the morning or afternoon? What time of day would it be best to plan to go to vote? After a Time Away Request is approved, students are responsible for notifying their course instructor or attending physician/resident of their clinical team in advance of any absence.

Phase 1 Clarification

Students who face difficulty voting before or after course hours on November 3 are encouraged to take advantage of early voting opportunities that provide extended and weekend hours on multiple days. Students who are registered to vote outside the community in which they attend IU School of Medicine should request an absentee ballot as soon as possible, and should complete and return it as soon as it is received.

Students who want to vote in person on Election Day must submit a Time Away Request Form by October 3 with the phrase “Election Voting Day” in the Reason for Absence section. After the Time Away Request is approved, the student is responsible for notifying their course instructor and arranging to make up any missed required sessions.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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Susanna Scott

Communication Specialist

Susanna focuses on communication for Medical Student Education, Faculty and Staff. She is also working toward her doctorate in health communication at IUPUI.