As a third or fourth year medical student, doing a 1-4 week rotation in Family Planning will give you valuable exposure to the field and set you up for success as a resident doing an abortion training away elective. Your medical school may have a rotation available through the obstetrics and gynecology department, but if not, the best way to do this is through Medical Students for Choice (MSFC) and/or the Midwest Access Project (MAP).
MSFC has 3 key clinical abortion training opportunities.
Reproductive Health Externship - This program provides participants with financial support for a two to four week rotation at your clinic of choice (pending availability).
Clinical Abortion Observation - This is a three to nine day opportunity for observation and exposure to abortion care.
Abortion Training Institute - This is a fully funded, weekend-long opportunity to get inspired by your peers and learn about the clinical aspect of abortion care and family planning. You can do this at any point during medical school.
Midwest Access Project (MAP) also accepts medical students for training rotations.
They provide observation or hands-on training at various sites throughout the region. The length of rotations is dependent on the professional goals of each trainee.
The process is application based, and MAP offers a slot to about half of the people that apply. Prospective applicants are welcome to speak to MAP staff prior to applying. If your application was not accepted, MAP staff are available to share feedback about your application.
Please visit MAP’s Individual Clinical training website to learn more about the program and eligibility.
Getting Ready for Residency
Two organizations that can help you make your decisions about residency programs are MSFC and RHEDI. Both have a long history of working with medical students and residents, and have a wealth of information about which programs are supportive to abortion training. Please feel free to reach out to both organizations if you have any questions about specific programs.
In general, family medicine residencies can be grouped into two big categories with regard to abortion care - programs that will support you in your endeavors and programs that will not. For programs that are supportive, this may come in many different forms.
The most obvious are the RHEDI programs, which are residencies that have built in, opt-out abortion curriculum and training opportunities. These programs have received RHEDI grants which provide funding for abortion training. RHEDI-granted programs vary substantially in how they incorporate the training. For example,
Their program may offer abortions in their continuity or OB clinic
They may have affiliations with a local Planned Parenthood or other abortion clinic where you can spend your elective time
In selecting a program with abortion training, you can be sure the program and its faculty share your passion for incorporating abortion care into family medicine, and will give you access to faculty mentors already practicing full-spectrum reproductive medicine in their FM careers.
Beware, however, that no program can guarantee training to competency. Here are some common scenarios:
Some programs with built-in training (RHEDI or otherwise) may have a high volume of residents who are interested in being trained, therefore opportunities may be limited due to availability of slots.
Some programs that are listed as having a RHEDI grant (https://rhedi.org/rhedi-programs/) do not actually have abortion training included in their current infrastructure. They may have recently received the grant, and the training is not set up yet, or they may have recently lost funding because they could not get the training off the ground.
This is why it’s crucial to ask detailed questions from faculty and residents to get a sense of what opportunities truly exist, even at programs with built-in training.
While the majority of family medicine programs in general are not RHEDI-affiliated, this does not mean that there won’t be opportunities for abortion training. This is where the interview and research about the program is crucial to your understanding of the opportunities for, or supportiveness around, abortion training. Doing your research, asking people who have interviewed at that program, and reaching out to current residents are key strategies to gaining this understanding. MSFC has put out two great guides to interviewing at programs where you are not sure of their affiliation which you can find here and here. Some key questions to ask include:
How many months of away electives does the program offer?
How are those away electives distributed throughout the years?
Can those electives be done at non-residency affiliated clinics?
This would allow you the flexibility to travel to do an elective at a high volume, family planning clinic during your residency.
Join the Reproductive Health Care Member Interest group through the AAFP! They are a great source of advocacy and can answer any questions you may have as medical students, and it’s a great way to start networking with mentors in the reproductive health world.
AMSA has an exciting reproductive health project with multiple opportunities for medical students.
Fourth year medical students - Register for a non-clinical, online, two week elective specifically on Reproductive Justice, Family Planning, and Abortion Care.
Reproductive Health Mentorship Sprint - Apply to be connected with a mentor to discuss reproductive health, their experience as an abortion provider, or whatever else your heart desires
Apply for their Reproductive Health Scholars Program, Career Pathways in Family Planning Leadership program, and/or the Reproductive Justice Leadership Program
Join your local chapter of the Reproductive Health Access Project here!