Second M.D./M.P.H. Class Continues “Tremendous Journey”

The Miller School of Medicine officially kicked off the 2012-13 academic year on June 25 by welcoming its second class of M.D./M.P.H. dual-degree students at a day-long orientation in the Rosenstiel Medical Science Building.

“This was a tremendous journey for you,” Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean, told the 48 students from 18 different states in his welcoming remarks. “You had to be a tremendous student almost since kindergarten to be here, so congratulations. We are really very proud of you.”

For University of Kentucky graduate Amanda Barnes, choosing the right medical school was a matter of both climate and demographics. She knew she wanted to stay in a warmer climate, like that of her hometown of Houston, but it was her passion for international medicine that ultimately led her to the M.D./M.P.H. program—and her belief that the Miller School shares the same passion.

“The M.P.H. program was kind of a natural lead in for me, because it is so focused on underprivileged demographics,” Barnes said.

One of the few medical schools in the country to offer a four-year M.D./M.P.H. program, the Miller School received a $2.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration to help fund innovative components of the curriculum.

“It’s a really unique program to be able to do in four years,” said Barnes, one of the Miller School’s 6,074 applicants.

Along with several other distinguished faculty members who addressed the M.D./M.P.H. students, Dean Goldschmidt noted that the American health care system is undergoing historic changes, many of them ushered in by the Affordable Care Act. In a stunning 5-4 decision issued June 28, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law’s basic provisions, allowing the long, arduous march toward universal health coverage to continue.

For the first time in the 21st century, the Dean said, it is apparent that, to save more lives, hospitals must reduce costs and focus more on prevention.

The students in the accelerated program begin their four-year curriculum early, starting six weeks before the Miller School’s more traditional medical school students and becoming what Julie Kornfeld, Ph.D., M.P.H., Assistant Dean for Public Health, called a “cohort of students integrating their medical and public health training.”

“The program reflects the Dean and this institution’s commitment to training future physician leaders,” Kornfeld said. “We want to train physicians to do more than just deliver medical care to individuals. We want them to focus on improving the health of the populations they serve.”

John Strutner, a Norte Dame graduate, said the Miller School’s proximity to Haiti and the tropics was a major factor in his decision to attend. Having spent a year providing public health in Haiti, Strutner knew he wanted to focus his medical career on international public health.

“A lot of medical doctors don’t have the training in public health, especially in Haiti, so combining those two degrees where seeing the actual patient with the disease and then being able to have compassion as a public health worker is really key,” Strutner said.

M.D./M.P.H. students will complete their first two years on the Miller School’s Miami campus, integrating public health coursework and research experiences from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health with the medical education experience.

Years three and four will take place mainly in Palm Beach County at the clinical teaching sites currently affiliated with the University’s regional medical campus. In addition, the Palm Beach County Health Department and the Florida Public Health Institute will be important sites of clinical and public health education for the students.

Laurence Gardner, M.D., Executive Dean for Education and Policy, said he is looking forward to collaborating with students in both the medical and public health components of the combined degree program.

“Unlike traditional medical school, I think you are responsible, along with us, in making your journey inspirational, growing it and making it have an impact,” Gardner said.

Carlos Migoya, CEO of Jackson Health System, also addressed the students, as did Alex Mechaber, M.D., Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education. In speaking about the great privilege and responsibility of being a physician, Mechaber shared a tongue-in-cheek want ad for the type of 21st century clinician the Miller School is committed to shaping.

“Altruistic, compassionate, courageous, intellectually curious, frugal scholar, gifted in history, philosophy, politics, economics, sociology, and psychology,” the ad from the Annals of Internal Medicine read. “Physical endurance, emotional maturity, and technical-manual skills sufficient to take apart and reassemble the human body and mind at levels ranging from the micromolecular to the gross are required… . Teaching, counseling, administrative, computer, and budgetary expertise essential, as is commitment to the disenfranchised….”

A day after their orientation, each member of the new M.D./M.P.H. class was equipped with an iPads, which like the inaugural class, they will use in much of their training, from lectures and research to patient care.

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