New Residents Welcomed to University of Miami, Jackson Memorial Hospital

Just a few weeks ago, Darren Thornton, M.D., a new intern in the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital’s residency program, was simply Darren Thornton. A few years before that he was playing football at North Carolina State University and had his heart set on an NFL career.

But after a hand injury in college temporarily sidelined him, Thornton had the chance to re-evaluate his career choices and turned off the pigskin path to focus on his education and a different future.

The journey brought him last week to an auditorium at Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he became part of the class of 349 new or transferring residents who are eager to take to the wards and help make patients better.

“You know something is coming, but you’re not really sure what,” said Thornton, who received his M.D. from Wayne State University June 8 and will concentrate on family medicine. “But I am ready. I think I was prepared well for whatever is to come. Once I made up my mind to become a doctor I thought about this day many, many times.”

Other residents and interns, as first-year residents are known, expressed similar sentiments as Miller School Dean and UHealth CEO Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Jackson Health System President and CEO Eneida Roldan, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., Jeanette Mladenovic, M.D., M.B.A., and other University and hospital leaders welcomed them to the UM Miller School of Medicine and Jackson Memorial Hospital orientation on June 23. The newcomers were guided through a day of events and lectures designed to equip them for the fast-paced residency program.

Twenty-six residents are part of the Miller School’s Palm Beach County Internal Medicine Residency Program. Dr. Mladenovic, senior associate dean for graduate medical education, pointed out that while the Miami interns and residents will train at Jackson and the Miami VA Medical Center – and some at University of Miami Hospital for the first time – the Palm Beach residents will rotate through JFK Medical Center in Atlantis and the West Palm Beach VA. The program also includes a new fellowship that will allow a fourth-year resident to train at Hospice of Palm Beach County.

“There is no limit to what you can accomplish,” Dean Goldschmidt said, putting the group at ease by recounting how, after training in Belgium, he didn’t know what a Code Blue was during his first days as a resident in a U.S. hospital.

Dean Goldschmidt also emphasized the critical importance of proper hand-washing (he asked a resident to recite the five steps); the dedication they must have to patients (“Know one thing,’‘ he said, “you can never do enough for your patients”); and the enormous opportunity they have by training at one of the largest medical campuses in the country. He explained, too, the fruitful 50-plus years partnership between UM and Jackson and how, despite challenges, residents would find “the relationship is at its best.”

Indeed, Roldan added, “We are facing a lot of challenges, but with challenges come great opportunities. You are now part of a great hospital system.”

That’s exactly what led Thornton to Miami to become one of this year’s 181 UM/Jackson interns, a journey that began at the rehabilitation center where he sought therapy after his hand injury. He fell in love with the caring people there and was intrigued by the healing process. Yearning to do something similar, he gave up football and switched his major from fisheries and wildlife to biomedical sciences with a minor in genetics.

Now, committed to family medicine “because it is the most direct way to treat families and encourage long-term healthy behavior,” Thornton is at Jackson to gain experience from “one of the best family medicine programs.”

Several of the residents, including Reginald Saint-Hilaire, M.D., were already familiar with the hospital and the city. Saint-Hilaire, who graduated from the Miller School in May, was thankful and eager to begin his general surgery preliminary year.

“I feel extremely privileged just to be starting,” Saint-Hilaire said. “It’s an extreme blessing to be here at such a well-known institution fulfilling a lifelong dream.”

In addition to getting sage advice from their new leaders, residents spent the day learning about medical records, privacy issues, risk management, the importance of adequate sleep, antimicrobial stewardship, their role in helping to educate medical students, and other key issues.

Resident Kelly DeSouza, M.D., listened carefully to all the lectures. The anesthesiology resident who grew up in Miami and recently received her M.D. from Universidad Central del Caribe in Puerto Rico, would be on call the next day – her first.

“I did a rotation here as a medical student and this is one of the best programs in the nation for anesthesiology,” DeSouza said. “I can’t wait. It’s nerve-racking and exciting.”

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