Families Urged to Get Involved at Medical Parents Association Orientation

Parents recently had the opportunity to learn how they could get involved at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine as they sent their daughters and sons off to their first year of medical school. The Medical Parents Association (MPA) held an orientation session August 3 to welcome the Class of 2020 and to urge their families to become volunteers.

“Parents, your daughter or son stands on the threshold of an incredible adventure, as they begin the journey of going from pre-med student to a highly trained physician,” said Vicky Egusquiza, M.D. ’87, who, along with Lourdes Sanjenis, M.D., M.B.A. ’96, is co-president of the MPA.

An estimated 190 incoming freshmen and their family members turned out for the Medical Parents Association Orientation, which was held at the Donna E. Shalala Student Center on UM’s Coral Gables campus. They enjoyed a reception and dinner buffet, while also having the opportunity to meet the medical school’s deans and listen to an overview of what’s ahead.

Organizers are hoping parents use that time to become active participants in their daughter or son’s medical education. The MPA is a volunteer organization that supports community outreach programs and student health fairs, and helps sponsor the John G. Clarkson Freshman Pinning Ceremony, Dean’s Cup, and Match Day. Volunteers play a vital role by lending their time at events or donating needed items.

“Joining the MPA affords us the opportunity to be a part of our daughter or son’s experience as they strive to become dedicated physicians,” said Sanjenis. “The benefits to all involved are immeasurable.”

Members of the medical school faculty highlighted the record-setting caliber of students accepted this year. The M.D. class had MCAT scores in the 86th percentile nationwide. There were 1,541 applicants for 196 spots, and an acceptance rate of 2.3 percent.

According to Richard Weisman, Pharm. D., Associate Dean of Admissions, many of the students had a choice of which institution to attend, as 88 percent were accepted at two or more schools, and 58 percent were accepted at three or more schools.

“We are fortunate to be attracting some of the brightest students who are applying to medical school year after year,” Weisman said.

Other numbers show that 50.3 percent of the class are non-Florida residents, 57.4 percent are women, and 55 percent are minorities.

“We are very proud of our medical school and its students,” said Alex J. Mechaber, M.D.’94, associate professor of medicine, Bernard J. Fogel Chair in Medical Education, and Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education. “We have grown tremendously into one of the largest medical centers in the country, which will soon include the new UHealth Coral Gables in The Lennar Foundation Medical Center. All of our centers provide tremendous opportunities for our students, not just in clinical experiences, but in research. It is what sets us apart from many medical schools in the country.”

Understanding the stresses of medical school, Hilit F. Mechaber, M.D. ’95, Associate Dean for Student Services, spoke about help available to students.

“I encourage our incoming students, and all students, to remember that their peers, faculty, and administrators are always available to assist them through this incredible journey,” said Mechaber, who is also associate professor of medicine. “Parents can be especially helpful in reminding their students that they need to know where to look for information, and to not be afraid to ask for help. Willingness to accept help and guidance along the way will definitely be part of a recipe for success.”

The families also heard from Ana Campo, M.D., Associate Dean for Students Affairs, who outlined the many services offered through her office.

“The Office of Student Affairs is here to help our students with a wide range of issues,” said Campo, who is also associate professor of clinical psychiatry. “From understanding attendance policies, credits and graduation requirements, to international study and much more. Our goal is to help make our students’ experience here as smooth as possible.”

One of the MPA’s roles is providing assistance to the Mitchell Wolfson Sr. Department of Community Service (DOCS). Executive Director Joshua Kronenfeld, M.D. Candidate, Class of 2017, encouraged parents to become involved with the student-run organization, which hosts nine health fairs each year to provide health screenings and other services to uninsured and underserved populations in Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe counties.

“We foster the students’ educational mission, while we help others,” said Kronenfeld. “I want the parents to know that their daughters and sons will be taking care of the community that they will be working and living in.”

Elisa Sukkar was one of the parents who attended the orientation. Her youngest child, Sarah, is a member of the Class of 2020. She’s also the first in the family to go to medical school, so the Cooper City family welcomed all the information they learned at the orientation.

“Everyone has been very generous and warm,” Sukkar said. “We’re grateful for the reception and the opportunity to meet the other students and parents and to hear what the next four years will be like.”

More photos from the orientation are available here.

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