The U of A Political Advocacy Committee (PAC) began from an initiative by the Canadian Federation for Medical Students (CFMS) in 2007-2008 to encourage grassroots medical student political advocacy. The vision was that medical students’ voices nationally would be strengthened by political engagement locally at each of Canada's 17 medical campuses. The first PAC chair at the U of A was Peter Gill, who laid the ground work for letting PAC take root in our MSA community. I was recruited as a PAC member that year, and in the following year took on the role as the second PAC Chair at the U of A. In 2008-2009, we had an amazing year that saw the launch of the First Annual Pan Alberta Medical Student Political Advocacy Day. It was an incredibly successful lobbying event, with 50 U of C and U of A medical students meeting with over 45 of Alberta's 81 MLAs at the time. It was also one of the few U of C - U of A collaborations that further boosted the strength of our voice. The topic that year was on medical student debt and enhancing student loans. Over the following years, the lobbying topics changed to more socially responsible topics but we kept fostering our relationship with the Alberta Government and the Ministry of Advanced Education. In 2010 our efforts paid off when they raised the lifetime student loan debt limit from $90,000 to $140,000! Since then PAC has been involved with many initiatives, including social justice, global health, and reforms in medical education.
In 2010, the CFMS general assembly passed a resolution to create a VP Advocacy position on the CFMS executive, to nationally direct all Canadian medical school PACs. The VP Advocacy role has really put advocacy at the forefront for the leadership of medical students at the MSA and at the national level. Today, as it did back then, the U of A's PAC remains a leader amongst schools in the initiatives it has put forward. My involvement with the PAC was the highlight of my medical student experience, and it has been incredibly valuable to me as I began practicing as a family physician in 2013!”
Harbir Singh Gill, MD, CCFP
U of A Political Advocacy Committee Chair 2008-2009
CFMS Political Advocacy Chair 2009-2010
CFMS Western Canada Representative 2009-2010