New JGIM Article Highlights Pritzker Op-Ed Curriculum

In the Pritzker School of Medicine’s latest feat of scholarly innovation, a team of students and faculty has published an article about…publishing articles. Well, Op-Eds to be more exact.

A team led by V. Ram Krishnamoorthi, MD, last month published an article in the Journal of General Internal Medicine titled “An Op-Ed Writing Curriculum for Medical Students to Engage in Advocacy Through Public Writing.”

The article on op-ed writing as an advocacy tool in undergraduate medical education grew out of Khrishnamoorthi’s first-year course “The American Healthcare System,” which he co-directs with Greg W. Ruhnke, MD. The course, which was renamed “Foundations of Health Policy & the US Healthcare System” this year, historically included a final essay assignment with topics assigned to each student.

In fall of 2021, Krishnamoorthi responded to a growing desire among students to choose their own topics by changing the final assignment. Not only were students now allowed to choose their own final assignment topic, they were also given a choice of format, including op-ed. This came after Krishnamoorthi and student leaders from the Pritzker Health Policy Interest Group invited Shika Jain, MD, from the University of Illinois at Chicago to lead an op-ed writing workshop. Jain, a former Public Voices Fellow with the OpEd Project, is a co-author on the JGIM article.

The response was overwhelming, with more than half the class choosing to submit op-eds, many of which were also accepted for publication in the likes of the Chicago Tribune, Newsweek,, and the Chicago Sun-Times. The next year, nearly two thirds of the class chose to submit op-eds, and the total of externally published op-eds between the two years rose to 22, with additional outlets including the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Ms. Magazine running pieces written by Pritzker students.

Those two years provided the data for the JGIM article, which includes student authors Daniel Johnson (MS3), Spencer Asay (MS3), Alexandra Beem (MS2), Lahari Vuppaladhadiam (MS2), Grace Keegan (MS3), Maeson Zietowski (MS3), and Samuel Chen (MS3). Beem and Vuppaladhadiam were interviewed last year for an American Medical Association article on the op-ed writing curriculum, which they presented at the 2023 AMA ChangeMedEd Conference.

In the JGIM article, the authors posit that the strong uptake in op-ed writing resulted from a strong interest in health advocacy among Pritzker students, integration into a required course, and access to coaching.

“The majority of authors had little experience in op-ed writing themselves but were able to use written materials to coach and edit the work of their peers,” the article reads. “The publication of over half of peer-edited pieces, with focused assistance from faculty, may indicate the effectiveness of this model.”

Furthermore, the introduction of op-ed writing appears to have illuminated an avenue for advocacy that authors had not previously considered as medical students.

“Students may have realized from this experience that entering physician training grants them influence on healthcare issues with the public,” the article asserts. One “author’s experience validated that medical student voices are respected by the public.”

The article goes on to highlight the many topics on which Pritzker students have published op-eds, including the now-ended FDA ban on blood donation by gay and bisexual men, racial disparities in breast cancer survival, and increasing inclusion of women in clinical trials. The op-ed writing curriculum, the authors conclude, demonstrated the accessibility of a valuable advocacy skill for pre-clinical medical students, and led to a slew of published pieces in major local and national outlets.