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Remember Ryan Van Ramshorst? This 2009-10 Houston-Galveston Schweitzer Fellow (and his project partner, Erin Bendure) worked to improve and promote literacy in the clinics and emergency center of Ben Taub General Hospital, even bringing the Houston Astros on board.

Now, the Baylor College of Medicine graduate and Schweitzer Fellow for Life is performing his residency at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio Department of Pediatrics—and he recently had the honor of serving as Theme Issue Editor for Virtual Mentor, the American Medical Association’s journal of medical ethics.

The issue Van Ramshorst edited is available at www.virtualmentor.org, and its theme is “Caring for the Underserved”:

Physicians—like educators, attorneys, clergy, and other professionals—face the dilemma that providing charity care for those in greatest need may perpetuate the social conditions that created the need. Contributors to the August issue of Virtual Mentor explore possible resolutions to that dilemma, ranging from social-justice advocacy at the individual and collective levels to changing incentives within the profession to reward those who practice primary care in underserved regions. The authors agree that, even as longer-term solutions are undertaken, charity care cannot be abandoned.

“With commentaries on patient advocacy by John Brockman, on balancing practice economics with patient needs by Glen Medellin, and William Huang’s education article about learning to care for the underserved, we hope you’ll find that this is a good resource for future physicians to use when applying medical ethics to their desire to serve those with the greatest need,” Van Ramshorst says.

Be sure to check out Van Ramshorst’s own powerful Virtual Mentor essay, “Reaffirming Our Commitment to Serve” – here’s an excerpt:

What does service mean? Need every seasoned physician work at a clinic dedicated to the homeless to truly serve? Need every medical student spend an elective rotation working in a third-world country? Need every resident take precious time to help uninsured patients fill out public insurance applications? I think that the answer to these questions is a resounding “no”—and I believe most of this issue’s authors would agree. As physicians, we need a heightened but not overly simplistic awareness of our responsibilities. Instead of asking “should I be doing more?” or “am I doing enough?” one might ask “do I do something each day to make a difference?” I think our health care system would be more responsive to the health needs of our nation’s communities if all health care professionals—nurses, physicians, and administrators alike—asked themselves this question and made a conscious effort to act upon it each day.

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