Second-year medical student Justin Berk received the American Medical Association Foundation’s National Leadership Award Monday at AMA’s 10th annual Excellence in Medicine Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.

According to the event program, the award is presented to early-career physicians, medical students, residents and fellows who exhibit leadership qualities in community service, education organized medicine or public health.

Berk, an MD/MBA student from Amarillo, said 20 people received the leadership award.

“It’s the only AMA foundation award that recognizes students,” he said. “There is a similar or equivalent award for medical residents, for physicians, but this was the only student award that AMA foundation provides.”

The award was presented at the AMA National Advocacy Conference, Berk said, where the recipients participated in leadership training.

The participants, he said, developed skills involving topics ranging from advocacy to communication.

“There’s over 350 medical students that are coming just to learn about advocacy, just to check out the conference,” Berk said, “and then it culminates at the end of the conference where physicians and students will actually go to the Capitol and lobby for the AMA agenda.”

Berk said he found out about the award from AMA emails, and applied by submitting an application and resume and answering short answer questions.

Berk was notified by email of his receipt of the award, and he said he is honored to have the opportunity to receive the award and attend the conference.

“The award’s great,” he said, “but also just the opportunity to just enjoy the conference, to meet other people, to meet leaders in the health care field and to receive some advocacy training is a pretty big deal. It’s pretty awesome.”

Dr. Tedd Mitchell, president of Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, said the award looked at the best up-and-coming medical students in the country and is more holistic because it looks at the future of medicine.

“For Justin, it’s obviously a huge accolade and something that will follow him for the rest of his medical career,” he said. “As he’s applying for residency programs, it will stand out. As he’s applying for any fellowship program, it will stand out as he’s applying for positions.”

Mitchell said the award gives the university the opportunity to showcase the success of students and allow others to take notice of the program.

Berk, he said, was admitted to several big medical schools and chose to come back to West Texas for school instead.

Mitchell said Berk has remained active with his academics and service since coming to medical school.

Berk said he is the student director of the Lubbock Impact/HSC Free Clinic, social chair of his class and vice president of the student AMA and Texas Medical Association chapter at Tech.

Berk graduated from Yale University with an undergraduate degree in political science, he said. He also received a master’s degree in public health from Yale School of Public Health before attending medical school.

Berk said he chose to pursue a master’s degree in public health because he was passionate about the topic and the idea of providing health care by improving health and the quality of life of people on a large scale like physicians do.

“I feel like anyone who’s ever seen a sick person, you know, that’s when people’s quality of life is lower than normal and you’re able to offer a lending hand,” Berk said.

After Berk graduates from medical school, he said he wants  to participate in internal or family medicine where he can see patients, do clinical work and focus on public health.

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