Second Look Day Dazzles Class of 2018 Prospects

“You never get a second chance to make a good first impression” goes the old saying, but that isn’t always true.

For Alexandra Young, who joined 137 other physicians-to-be in the Lois Pope LIFE Center’s Apex Auditorium on April 11 for the Miller School’s fourth annual Second Look Day, getting an up-close look at the campus was a first-time thrill. Already a graduate of The Ohio State University, where she dual-majored in biology and anthropology, Young has spent the past two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Madagascar. Her interview for one of the slots in the class of 2018 was conducted via Skype.

Second Look Day is when prospective students who have multiple acceptances come to the School for a whirlwind tour of classrooms, laboratories and student activities. The goal, when you’re not the students’ only choice, is to demonstrate that you’re their best choice.

But Young didn’t need convincing; her mind was already made up. “I’ve always wanted to be a doctor, and public health is what interests me,” she said. “I’m really impressed by the Miller School’s integrated M.D./M.P.H. program, and I want to be part of it.” For her, it was a question of catching up on what she had missed in her first interview 9,000 miles away.

Chrispin Otondi wasn’t as sure. He was torn between the Miller School and Jefferson University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. A native of Kenya, he attended Lafayette College, where he majored in neuroscience, the field he hopes to pursue as a physician. Otondi graduated in 2013 and has spent the intervening time in Jacksonville as a City Year volunteer. It has been a nice break, he said, from the Pennsylvania winters.

“Neuroscience is very strong here, and the weather is a plus,” he said, smiling. “I also like the cultural diversity.” Otondi is following in the footsteps of his older brother, who is a doctor in Kenya. He hopes to eventually return home and open a hospital.

“Second Look Day is an extremely important part of the admissions and recruiting process,” said Richard Weisman, Pharm.D., Associate Dean for Admissions. “It is a day when we showcase all of the amazing opportunities our medical students have at the Miller School and at our partner hospitals.”

For the students, it is a time of big dreams, but also of important decisions. Deciding where to attend medical school — the commitment deadline is May 15 — affects a physician’s entire career, said Weisman, who kicked off the event-packed day. “Matching is the goal of medical education,” he told the attentive audience, referring to the school’s recent highly successful Match Day. “You have to make sure you get a residency at the hospital you want, in the specialty you want, in the region of the country you want, and you have to go to the medical school that is capable of getting you there.”

Weisman told the students the day was structured to show them how the Miller School makes that happen.

“We’re going to take a look at our curriculum — it’s innovative, it’s flexible and it’s personalized,” he said. “We’re also going to take a look at clinical experiences, research opportunities, community service and global health opportunities. You will meet some of the key leaders of the medical school and some of your fellow students. And you will have the opportunity to experience some of Miami’s rich culture and diversity.”

Weisman told them they should be proud of what they have accomplished so far. “We had 7,700 applications, and we accepted only 200 of you. The odds were against you, and yet in every way, each and every one of you shined.”

Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School and CEO of UHealth, continued Weisman’s upbeat beginning. He asked the students to take a moment to shake the hand of the person on their left and on their right. “It’s energizing, isn’t it?” he asked afterwards. “You’re starting to feel the energy that we have here at the Miller School. We transform lives through education, research and clinical care; our graduates go out and save lives.”

He also acknowledged the competitive aspects of beginning a career in medicine. “You need to differentiate yourself from your peers,” Goldschmidt advised the students. “It’s the key to being accepted by the residency of your choice.”

Laurence Gardner, M.D., Executive Dean for Education and Policy, told the students that what makes medical education different in the U.S. from almost all other countries is “the opportunity to learn from, with and by patient interactions.” This hands-on method, multiplied by the breadth of the School’s offerings — 90 programs and specialty residencies at Jackson Memorial, University of Miami Hospital and other affiliated hospitals in Broward and Palm Beach counties — is almost without equal. “The opportunities for you as students, regardless of the track you choose, to interact and learn in all of those settings is, if not unique, close to unique, at medical schools and teaching institutions across the country,” said Gardner.

“As you will see from most of our deans, we stay in the trenches,” said Alex J. Mechaber, M.D., Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education, noting that faculty at the highest levels remain active in education, clinical care and research. “We offer an innovative and integrated curriculum,” he told the students, “that brings academic education and clinical training together. You will be seeing patients in the first month of your first year.”

Another differentiator, said Mechaber, is the School’s leadership in public health. Students get involved in the community, and many participate in international service programs.

All of these elements make Miller students stand out, Mechaber explained. “Our students excel by every standardized measure,” he said. “They score well above the national averages.”

Also making presentations were Richard Riley, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Pre-Clinical Curriculum, who discussed core principles, the organ system curriculum and the course differences between the M.D. and M.D./M.P.H. tracks; and Paul Mendez, M.D., Assistant Dean for Clinical Curriculum, and Gauri Agarwal, M.D., Assistant Regional Dean for Medical Curriculum, who spoke in greater detail about the M.D. and M.D./M.P.H. tracks, respectively.

Later in the day, Begona Rovira, Director of Education for M.P.H. Programs, gave a presentation on how Miller students are engaging in community and global health projects. The prospects also heard from current students on a variety of topics, ranging from community service to research to life in Miami.

Thomas Plate, a biochemistry major from New College of Florida, pronounced himself “committed.” He was swayed by the “great clinical experience and access to research” that the School offers. He plans to pursue radiation oncology.

And Michelle Godbee, who hopes to be a pediatrician, is committing to the Miller School in a highly unusual career change. She already holds a bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt and a master’s degree from UM — in violin performance. She is currently a violinist with the Florida Grand Opera and the Palm Beach Symphony. Nonetheless, she says, “I always wanted to help people through medicine,” and the School has given her the chance to hit the right career note.

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