BACKGROUND:

I presented Election Lab Strategy Game at the Future Physicians For Change Conference in Washington DC. That is a yearly conference organized by the American Medical Student Association (AMSA).

In November 2023, I was a Speaker at the American Public Health Association. We presented our National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded work on hand washing and infection prevention.

It is there that I met Dr Rohini Kousalya Siva – 2023-2024 President of American Medical Student Association (AMSA). We talked for a very long time about number of things including AMSA its membership, some of the causes they support, their mission, their vision, and their yearly conference: Future Physicians For Change. The more I learned, the more I was impressed.

MENTORING/COACHING:

Mentoring has been my life-long calling. That includes mentoring, sponsoring and coaching students from all walks of life from elementary – middle – high school to college – medical studentspostgraduate and beyond.

I have been a coach/mentor since finishing my internal medicine residency. So, when I was invited to speak at the Future Physicians For Change conference, I accepted.

<em>Civic Health in an Election Year<em>

WHY ELECTION LAB?

There are number of topics I could have talked about. Besides number of ongoing projects (like handwashing, infection prevention, sleep, healthy habits), there are others I was involved in throughout my career (like medical education – from hospital medicine to being Clerkship Director, Residency Program Director and Professional Development for faculty). Interestingly, I was asked to present on Election Lab (ELO). There are, indeed, many reasons to talk about that particular topic. That is true especially for this convention and at this particular time in history. Here are few:

  1. This Year (2024) is a year we vote and decide who will be our next U.S. President
  2. United States Presidential Election will be on November 5th 2024.
  3. Prior to the Convention, AMSA members lift their voices by participating in the Advocacy Day on the Hill.
  4. Election Lab Strategy Games provide immersive engagement into civic activity for attendees interested in advocacy and advocating for change. Furthermore, it provides immersive hands-on experience using innovative educational technology
  5. As a result, it sparks curiosity and supplements current nation-wide activities about voting and registering patients to vote.
  6. In addition, its approach of marrying educational technology and innovation with data science, literacy, civic topics and voting is exceptional.
  7. Game-based-learning in general provides amazing level of engagement that lectures cannot.
    • Election Lab Strategy Games is unique invention. Election Lab is innovative. And as a bonus: our approach is cross-disciplinary. As a result, we can sharpen not only historical and civic but STEM and science parts of our brains, as well.
    • It is a multi-prong, cross-disciplinary activity.
  8. This work has been possible due to hard-earned awards from prestigious the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences
    • These grants are very competitive and difficult to obtain. I am beyond thrilled that my team won them. It allowed us to work on this project. It also allowed us to bring some of our vision into reality.
    • Our work is research based.
  9. Last but not least, voting is social determinant of health. That is a topic that has been gaining lots of attention in healthcare over the past few years. As it should.

There are so many other reasons. However, some of the above-mentioned ones, highlight the importance of the topic.

YOUTH IS OUR FUTURE

It is inspiring to work with young people from all around the country and the world. They are at the beginning of their medical career. The future is in front of them. I was excited to make a positive difference for some of them and share some of our innovative work.

Always give more than you receive.

Attending the conference, to me, meant going beyond being a Speaker: being a listening ear and perhaps even offering feedback on their work or giving a career advice, if needed. I was determined to learn as much as possible about the conference, and be selfless with my time.

So, I accepted the invitation. At the end, I was very glad I did.

TRAVEL

It took a long time to get to Washington DC. It took even longer for me to come back. Return flight was unfortunately delayed: one time, two times, three time …. It even spilled into another day with an early 5 am departure (scheduled, but not realized).  That particular experience was unpleasant to say the least.

Despite those obstacles and travel struggles, I am still glad I was a Speaker at the Future Physicians for Change convention.

“It is in giving that we receive.” I reminded myself.

It is indeed. I tried to give as much as I could.

Unexpectedly, I received a lot in return, too.

<em>Speaker Dr Criley <em>

SPEAKER

My overall experience speaking at the Future Physicians for Change was fabulous. I shared snippets of my knowledge about the electoral college and US Presidential Elections. Even more importantly, attendees got to play 2024 Election Lab Strategy Game. It has been 12 years of work, condensed into a one hour presentation. 😊 My talk involved not only cutting-edge but using at times, bleeding-edge technology. Still, it all went so well. I am immensely grateful to attendees, organizers, as well as our cutting-edge technology for working out so well!  

Andres Diaz, a brilliant MD PhD student, was very kind and welcoming with informative and wonderful introduction.

I asked attendees to explain the mechanism by which we elect the U.S. President. This topic is still not well understood by many, even highly educated people. Electoral College is still a much-needed subject to talk about. That is true even for those who had civic-based education in their high school (or college).

Electoral College is a complex process. Understanding what Electoral College is, is not intuitive.

EXPERIENCE OF PLAYING ELECTION LAB

Immersing attendees into playing Election Lab 2024 game, gave them new glasses. After playing the game, they can not only see, but understand and experience how Electoral College actually works.

When attendees started playing the game, it was enjoyable to see the excitement in the room.

All attendees were engaged.

They strategized how to deploy their election resources.

They competed against each other.

While walking around the room, it was fun the hear some of the comments:

“Uncertainty part is brilliant!”

“I love this!”

“Oh no! I lost Georgia.”

“I played even strategy across. I lost. I was blue. I lost to red. I want to play it again. Revenge.”

“I am having the most fun!”

“This would be great for our Chapters. They should all play this before the election.”

“Sitting down and thinking about it, how to win, is great.”

“Having historic elections and modeling future elections is brilliant.”  

I loved it. I am very competitive. First round, I lost. Then I changed strategy 

I looked for states with biggest numbers – – and I won.” 

This is very helpful. Now I understand what I did not before. I think this would be very helpful with patients too: to empower them to register and vote. Because often, they just do not understand.”

“This would be an excellent tool for patients to increase engagement.”

“It is interesting to think about how do health care issues like: reproductive rights, Medicare reimbursement and others have effect on electoral college and campaigns.”

How do they, indeed?

“I am so impressed. There is lots of utility for AMSA for exposing how it works but also for future planning.” 

“I would love to see a video about this game.”

“Everyone should play this. All members should play it at least once.”


“This would be great as part of our advocacy event.”

 “This is really cool for medical students. So, they can see, how election really looks like.”

“You have created an amazing resource. This type of learning is new age. This is how people nowadays prefer to take in information.”

This is one of my favorite sessions. That was a blast. I lost and I am happy 😊”

“You are a fantastic speaker. You involved everyone. And you connected electoral college and voting to health and social determinants of health. Everyone got what they needed. Your board games are great visuals.”

Dr Criley Speaker at the Future Physicians For Change

REFLECTION

It is in moments like this, when I look back and realize that perhaps, investing 12 years of my family and my life into building something like this was worth it. This effort started in Election 2012: when our children were in elementary school.

Being legislative representatives, we realized limitations of Mock Elections. So, we embarked on making things more meaningful, more engaging and more educational.

How do we do that?

It turns out that, while watching national news, we identified lack of adequate critical thinking skills and the presence of cognitive biases. We observed that, even professional reporters on national television, made these mistakes. We noticed that interpretations of U.S. Presidential Maps were wrong. We noticed a lack of understanding of the probabilities of winning and interpreting maps. We noticed lack of even understanding what the Electoral College is and how elections work.

So, we rolled up our sleeves and started creating. And teaching. And talking. And presenting. What started as a math lesson evolved into a board game. A board game evolved into board games and many speaking engagements, talks and presentations. Board Game work evolved into receiving the Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences awards and creating interactive digital election video games.

It has been a long journey for us. It has been quite an educational journey on many different levels, too. Our educational experiences encompass anything from entrepreneurial and creative to research, evaluations and engaging hands-on learning of our attendees and participants.

THANK YOU

“Thank you for taking the time to make this game”, one attendee said. In addition to everything else I already heard, her words had an additive effect. Just hearing: “Thank you for making this. It is helpful. It makes a difference” was beyond gratifying.

It is like someone giving you an A on a very tough exam. Or receiving air to breathe. Realization that your work can make a bigger difference than you originally thought. Even if it is different from being in the hospital and providing direct patient care. It still makes a difference. Potentially even on a bigger scale.

ELECTION LAB JOURNEY

Election Lab Journey has been a path with many ups and downs. Over the past 12 years, we brainstormed. We innovated. We created. We applied for grants. We won prestigious national and international awards. We revised and created more novel programs.

Our programs are beautiful, well-though out, engaging, and innovative. I cannot wait for our Election Lab 2024 Game launch this summer!

We contributed. There is lots of noise out there. But I am proud to say, that our work is innovative. Cutting-edge. It is novel and adds to learning. That has been crystal clear. Even at the AMSA convention.

We mentored. Over many years, we mentored a lot. Some of our younger students (elementary, middle, high school) got involved into political processes and civic activities in their high school and beyond. We even had students work on Election Lab projects for their AP Capstone Research courses.

It has been beyond rewarding to see that this type of cross-disciplinary learning is clearly making a difference for students and players of all walks of life. Even medical. Or perhaps: especially medical.

This has been unique journey like no other. We have a wonderful and talented team. Having witnessed the impact we are making, motivates us even more to keep going. To make things even better. To make learning game experience even better.

<em>Drs Criley and Kousalya Siva at the Physicians For Change <em>

GRATITUDE

As we continue to prepare for the U.S. Presidential Election 2024, I feel peace and gratitude in my heart.

Thank you, AMSA, Future Physician for Change, Dr. Rohini Kousalya Siva, Coleen Murphy, AMSA Board, Dr. Annelise Silva, Andres Diaz, and all the organizers for your hard work. Thank you, everyone who was involved in organizing this great convention and inviting me as a speaker.

You are doing important work. You are our future. I am looking forward to continuing being in touch and exploring avenues where I could continue to help.

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