New Ph.D. Students Begin Their Miller School Journey

The Ph.D. Programs in Biomedical Sciences (PiBS) at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine held its New Graduate Student Orientation and White Coat Ceremony on August 13.

The programs are focused on education, training and development of the next generation of biomedical researchers. The 39 new students learned about the support they will receive from faculty and mentors, and their access to collaborative groundbreaking research in labs, classrooms, workshops, student groups and professional development for career advancement.

The program began with welcome remarks and introductions by Charles Lowman, M.Ed., M.B.A., executive director of the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

Henri R. Ford, M.D., M.H.A., the new dean and chief academic officer of the Miller School, also welcomed the students. His talk to the incoming PiBS class focused on his vision to create a unification of clinical and basic science, and to promote excellence in the education of medical and graduate students. Dr. Ford underscored the concept of team science and stated that the Miller School of Medicine is ideally positioned to bring together its strengths to promote new discoveries that will be transformed to clinical interventions for patients throughout Florida, Latin America and worldwide.

Following Dr. Ford’s talk, Norman H. Altman, V.M.D., the Miller School’s ombudsperson, detailed his role in providing services to the new graduate students. He explained how he serves as an independent and confidential resource for addressing concerns, resolving conflicts, dealing with problems and giving advice.

Clinical psychologist Addys B. Karunaratne, Ph.D., explained the role of the University of Miami Counseling Center and how it promotes the personal well-being and academic success of UM students through the a variety of services: individual and group mental health services, outreach programming and prevention, psychiatric services, consultation and after-hours crisis services. She discussed the primary challenges in adjusting to graduate school and stressed the importance of students taking care of themselves and being proactive when needing help.

The next speaker was Carl I. Schulman, M.D., Ph.D., M.S.P.H., professor of surgery and executive dean for research and research education. Dr. Schulman outlined the synergistic relationship between the clinical and research missions at the Miller School. Like Dr. Ford, he highlighted the importance of interdisciplinary team science, making reference to Aristole’s quote, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” He detailed the Miller School’s research strategy and its thematic parts — Cancer, Neuroscience,
HIV/AIDS and Emerging Pathogens, Inflammation, Metabolism, and Immunity. Following his talk, Dr. Schulman led the PiBS incoming class in reciting the Oath. The students were presented with their personalized lab coat as a symbol of the start of their research and graduate studies in the biosciences.

Clara Troccoli, president of Biomedical Graduate Student Government (BGSG), outlined the organization’s mission of serving the graduate student body at the Miller School, and addressing students’ academic, social and professional needs through programs, mentorship and communication with the university administration. She announced that BGSG received the 2018 Toppel Award for Student Organization of the Year and Life in Miami. Other activities conducted by BGSG are distinguished guest lecturers, Coffee and Donuts sessions that discuss topics such as managing money in grad school, interpersonal relationships in the laboratory, international student challenges, mental health and stress management in grad school, social events etc. In conclusion, Troccoli stressed the importance of getting involved and outlined the various committees within BGSG, which include Teaching and Learning, Career Development, Student Mental Health, New and International Students, Green Committee, and Community Service Committee. BGSG provides opportunities for student and community service, leadership, network building and personal/professional support.

After lunch, Pedro Salas, M.D., Ph.D., graduate program director for Programs in Biomedical Sciences, gave a detailed presentation of the PiBS Program. Salas provided a list of PiBS resources and challenged the incoming class to think about another Socrates quote: “I cannot teach anybody anything; I can only make them think.” Dr. Salas’ presentation answered questions such as “What is graduate school?” and “How does the PiBS program work?” He also covered the Responsible Conduct of Research and Compliance.

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