Miller School Student Wins First Prize in National Medical Essay Competition

Fleta Netter Bray, a fourth-year student at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, has won first prize in a national medical essay competition held annually by the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society.

The Melbourne Beach, Fla., native won top honors and a $2,000 cash award in the Helen H. Glaser Student Essay Contest, and is the first Miller School student ever to win a prize in the competition. Her essay, “Shakespeare’s Macbeth: An Insight into Politics, Religion, and the King’s Touch,” won the top award for 2015, but winning entries are not published until the following year in the spring edition of The Pharos, the society’s journal, which comes out this month.

The purpose of the competition is to encourage medical students to write creative narratives or scholarly essays relevant to medicine. Bray’s entry discussed Shakespeare’s inclusion of a practice known as the “King’s Touch” — a ceremonial laying on of hands that was believed to cure scrofula, a form of tuberculosis that produced glandular swellings and was common at the time — in the plot of his play Macbeth. The supposed cures were thought to be proof that the monarch served as God’s agent on Earth, thus affirming his Divine Right to rule.

“Last year I regularly attended lectures given by the Department of Dermatology,” said Bray. “Dr. George Elgart mentioned the tradition of the King’s Touch to heal scrofula during one of his clinicopathologic challenge lectures. I thought the history was fascinating, so I went home and read more about it. Later, when I learned about the competition, I thought it was the perfect subject for an essay.”

Bray’s father, Miller School alumnus Thomas Netter, M.D. ’75, was a strong influence on her decision to go into medicine.

“At age 13, I began working after school and during summers at his primary care clinic,” she said. “To this day, I have yet to meet a more compassionate and dedicated physician than my father. This is what motivates me most about medicine — I can enjoy a career filled with unlimited learning and then have the joy of using that knowledge to care for others.”

Bray also determined to follow his example by attending the Miller School.

“When you have a role model such as my father, what better way is there to get started than in their footsteps?” she asked. After majoring in microbiology at the University of Florida, she entered the Miller School and has special praise for the clinical education she has received.

“One of the best elements of the clinical education through the Miller School is how much patients want students to be involved in their care,” she said. “Many of the patients whom students interact with will have had limited access to health care, so when a student arrives who shows compassion and empathy and wants to help in any way possible, it doesn’t take long for patients to start asking for that student by name.”

Bray’s next stop is a preliminary year in the internal medicine residency program that is a partnership between the Miller School and Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale. After that, she plans to pursue a residency in dermatology.

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