A Conversation With The President of the American Medical Student Association

PfCJR Interviews Isaiah Cochran, the National President of AMSA

Recently, Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform announced a collaboration with the American Medical Student Association, where a series of Op-eds and studies are being conducted on various topics such as Juvenile Health Legislation, and Mental Health in the Criminal Justice System. We interviewed Isaiah Cochran, to get some more insight on the collaboration. 

Isaiah A. Cochran, M.D. is national president and chair of the board of trustees for the American Medical Student Association (AMSA). He serves as a key organizational spokesperson for AMSA and active promoter of the organization’s educational programming, advocacy pursuits and membership recruitment and engagement efforts. In addition to serving as an AMSA board member since 2016, Cochran also has held leadership positions with Refugee Student Alliance and Global Health Initiative. He earned his medical degree from the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine in Dayton, Ohio, and a bachelor’s degree from Waynesburg University, Waynesburg, Pa.

Why are you interested in criminal justice reform?

I am interested in CJ reform, due to the fact that there are many people who are being imprisoned and they should not be. We are also seeing minorities charged for crimes at a higher rate than non-minorities and this is not ok.  I stand by justice for everything in life, and CJ reform is no exception to my rule for paying it forward. When it comes to health care, there are far too many individuals who are not being taken care of in prison or people who are being kept in prison longer than they should be all the while not receiving proper care.

What are the goals of the partnership between PfCJR and AMSA?

Our goal is to provide awareness, educate the medical community, mobilize them, fight for change, and vote for those who support reforming the CJ system

Why does this partnership make sense?

It makes sense because we have physicians-in-training who are working with fully licensed docs who also believe in change. This is a powerful combination

What is the importance of the intersections between criminal justice reform and healthcare?

I addressed this a little in the first question. To be succinct, as physicians and physicians-in-training- we have vowed to do no harm. The goal is to maintain the health of those who have been imprisoned so that they can work to better themselves and become citizens who can feel comfortable and society and become productive members of the community. 

What specific project are you currently working on with pfcjr?

I just completed outlines for students to use about the elderly in prison and those who have a mental illness in prison. These were made so that students could feel comfortable enough to go out to their representatives and speak about how reform should happen.

Is there anything else you would like to share about this initiative?

Yes, our goal is to go state by state and get all of the medical community involved in this fight. If we all band together, then we can certainly make a change.