Ask your average first- or second-year medical student about Constitution Day and one is likely to be met with a reflective pause, followed by a simple question: “What is Constitution Day?”
Constitution Day is an American federal holiday that recognizes the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. It is observed on Sept. 17, the day the U.S. Constitutional Convention signed the document in 1787. The law establishing Constitution Day as a holiday was created in 2004. In May 2005, the U.S. Department of Education announced the enactment of this law and that it would apply to any school receiving federal funds of any kind.
Though it is a relatively new holiday, more and more educational institutions have taken major steps to incorporate discussion about the U.S. Constitution and the government. This September at LECOM, U.S. Rep. Phil English, R-Pa., and Michael J. Rigelsky, Esq., visited the school and met with osteopathic and pharmacy students to discuss the 220-year-old document and the government it helped establish.
On Sept. 17, English met with first- and second-year medical students to generate discussion about health care and the decisions they would eventually have to make as professionals.
“Health care today is both urgent and important, and we are approaching a time when we’re going to make some hard decisions that will have a profound effect on the design, quality and vitality of our health care system for years to come,” English said. “I salute you for being involved with (LECOM) and I salute you for taking this career path at a time when there are many challenges facing health care.”
English listed several issues in Congress where health care has taken the forefront. Discussing the future of Medicare, medical malpractice, uninsured Americans and public health reform, English issued a challenge to the future doctors to play an active role in the process of governmental reform and change.
“I invite you in your professional careers to be aware, be active and stay involved,” English said. “Whatever party, affiliation or issues you get involved in, it is essential that you, as professionals, get involved.”
English also took questions from the students and took some time to meet with LECOM’s Student Government Association.
On Sept. 21, during the orientation for the first-year pharmacy students, Rigelsky took time to talk about the Constitution and how it applies to people living in 21st century America. Rigelsky, who practices in the litigation and business law sections of Manchester, Bennett, Powers & Ullman, L.P.A., provided common situations that illustrated how Constitutional rights are exercised and how U.S. citizens are protected – or not protected – by those laws.
He referenced the ongoing debate in this country about a person’s right to privacy, the government’s rights and the interpretation of laws and Constitutional amendments. Throughout his interactive presentation, he regularly called on students to get their impression of how the Constitution works, specifically in regard to the creation of legislation and the balance of power between the three branches of government.
While students may not have known about Constitution Day prior to Sept. 17, both English and Rigelsky helped cement the holiday – and the lessons its creation was intended to bestow – in their minds.