Miller School’s Class of 2017 Arrives

With the U.S. healthcare system in transition, tomorrow’s physicians will increasingly focus on delivering preventive care, Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School of Medicine, told the 150 members of the Miller School’s M.D. Class of 2017 at orientation on Monday. They join the 48 members of the M.D./M.P.H. Class who began their M.P.H. coursework in June as part of their dual-degree program.

“Your job as physicians will be to keep people in good health, while being able to deal with medical problems when things don’t go right,” Goldschmidt said. “That’s a dramatic difference from the past, and you will be leaders in managing that transition.”

Goldschmidt, who is also CEO of UHealth, pointed to the importance of evidence-based medicine in supporting the gradual shift to preventive care, highlighted by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. “Physicians take data into account when making their decisions,” he said. “That points to the great need for ongoing research into all aspects of medicine.”

Illustrating the globalization of medicine, Goldschmidt said that five-year survival rates for acute promyelocytic leukemia rose from 5 percent to 95 percent in recent decades after U.S. doctors learned that Chinese physicians were successfully using arsenic as a treatment. He also cited the Miller School’s immediate response to the devastating 2010 Haitian earthquake, when UM doctors set up a field hospital and provided ongoing medical care to survivors. “As physicians, your world will be the entire planet,” Goldschmidt said. “What’s happening today in Japan or Congo may define the challenges we will be facing right here.”

Several of the Miller School’s new M.D. and M.D./Ph.D. students said they are looking forward to careers as physicians and researchers in the changing healthcare system. For instance, Alexis Guerra took part in cancer research studies while earning his bachelor’s degree at the University of Miami. “I wanted to learn more about medicine and felt this was the right school for me,” he said. “At this point, I’m interested in cardiology, and looking forward to being exposed to other aspects of medicine.”

After graduating from Vassar College, Peter Canino chose the Miller School for both professional and personal reasons, since he has family members in the area. “I’m leaning toward emergency medicine at his point,” he said.

Another student, Rayna Howse from Cocoa Beach, became interested in ophthalmology after completing a UM summer scholars program in neuroscience. “I really enjoyed the lab work and look forward to continuing my medical education here,” she said.

Noting the school’s highly competitive admissions process, Richard Weisman, Pharm.D., Associate Dean for Admissions, said there were 7,128 applicants for 200 openings, for an acceptance rate of 2.1 percent. The incoming class had the highest average GPA and MCAT scores in history, he added.

There are 83 men and 67 women in the M.D. class, ranging in age from 19 to26 and 36.7 percent are minorities. About 60 came from other states than Florida, and 22 were born outside the United States. The M.D./M.P.H. class is made up of 31 women and 17 men, with 48 percent minorities.

Jeffrey Lin, an M.D./M.P.H. candidate from New York City, said he and his colleagues have been looking forward to meeting their classmates. “We also have the chance to apply everything we learned this summer from our public health courses, to our medical curriculum.”

Opening the orientation program on August 8, Alex J. Mechaber, M.D., Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education, led an informational session and pointed to the path ahead. “Medical school is a transformative experience that will change you and give you the opportunity to change medicine,” he said. “The first baby you deliver and the first hand you hold before an elderly patient passes away will have an impact on your life.”

In that session, Laurence Gardner, M.D., Executive Dean for Education and Policy, also welcomed the new students. “You are making a long and significant commitment to our profession, and we have the people and support system in place to help you succeed,” he said. “After you earn your medical degree, we hope that you decide to stay in South Florida and continue to be part of the Miller School and UHealth family.”

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