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Medical Parents Association orientation welcomes family members of the Class of 2025

In the hours before the members of the Class of 2025 formally began their medical training at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, their families attended their own online learning session.

Dr. Henri Ford, M.D., M.H.A., Dean and chief academic officer of the Miller School, offers his greeting remotely at the recent MPA orientation.

Traditionally held in-person, the annual Medical Parents Association (MPA) Orientation moved online for a second straight year due to the resurgence in COVID -19 cases nationwide. Despite the physically distanced venue, the orientation held Aug. 4 provided parents and friends a detailed introduction to what lies ahead for their students over the next four years.

“As parents of an incoming M.D. student in the Class of 2025, we share your excitement and sense of pride,” said Nelson Garcia, M.D. ’96, who along with his wife, Tanya Lawer-Garcia, M.D. ’96, is the co-president of the MPA. “We also share many of the same questions you have.”

“This is one of the finest medical schools in the country,” added Dr. Lawer-Garcia. “Tonight, is our chance to learn everything we need to know about the student experience at the Miller School.”

Henri R. Ford, M.D., M.H.A., dean and chief academic officer of the Miller School, welcomed parents with words of gratitude and a nod to the medical school’s far-reaching vision.

Record Applications Received

“Parents, your students are joining a premier academic medical center that is at the forefront of advances in clinical medicine, and leading breakthroughs in biomedical research,” Dean Ford said. “We have brilliant scientists and clinicians on the Miller School faculty are totally committed to the success of our students.

Dean Ford pointed to the record number of applications sent in by potential students, which was up by more than 30 percent than the previous year.

The Miller School received 11,183 applications for the Class of 2025. They matriculated 205 students, including 153 in the M.D. program and 52 in the M.D./M.P.H. program.

Nearly half of the M.D. class comes from outside the state of Florida, 51 percent are women, and 38 percent are minorities underrepresented in medicine. The average MCAT percentile rank is 88 percent. In the M.D./M.P.H. program, 65 percent are from outside the state, 84 percent are women and 36 percent are underrepresented in medicine. The average MCAT percentile rank is 84 percent.

The MPA Orientation was a real-time opportunity for parents to hear about every aspect of student life, from NextGenMD – the Miller School’s innovative medical education curriculum to student affairs, diversity issues, and safety in the face of a resurgent COVID-virus.

“We need our students to become leaders, to deal with the next unexpected health crisis that will inevitably happen during their careers,” said Latha Chandran, M.D., M.P.H., executive dean, and the Bernard J. Fogel Chair in Medical Education. “We provide our students with longitudinal, safe learning opportunities where we allow each of them to grow individually along this journey. Our goals are to transform our students into future leaders and thinkers, self-directed, confident, and mature physicians who can make a real impact on society and health care.”

Amar R. Deshpande, M.D. ’02, associate dean for medical education and administration and Gauri Agarwal, M.D. ’00, associate dean for curriculum, provided an overview of the NextGenMD, the Miller School’s innovative curriculum now entering its second year.

“A few years ago, we were tasked with revitalizing the curriculum and seeing how we could make it as innovative as possible,” said Dr. Deshpande. “These days it’s not about memorizing a bunch of minutiae, it’s about applying medical knowledge to be able to inform patient care.”

NextGenMD integrates practical application and self-directed learning in three interconnected disciplines – foundational science, clinical care, and health systems science, while emphasizing key attributes of professionalism and communication skills.

The curriculum is designed to foster real-world application, including integrated clinical clerkships, integration of foundational sciences throughout the curriculum, opportunities for scholarly pathways and dual degrees, and expanded time for career exploration and training.

“Our mission is to create transformational leaders who will shape the future of medicine, and the curriculum has been built to achieve that goal” said Dr. Agarwal.

Balancing Work and Life

Family members also heard about one of the Miller School’s newest programs, the Dean’s Research Excellence Award in Medicine (DREAM) scholarship program, which is designed to bolster training programs in research for students who are interested in becoming physician-scientists in academic medicine.

“The DREAM program will offer research opportunities, which is critically needed,” said R. Grace Zhai, Ph.D., the director of the program. “One lesson the pandemic has taught us is the importance of science and the fundamental biomedical discovery in transforming medicine.”

Dealing with the pandemic, staying on top of course work, and balancing life and school requirements can be overwhelming for some students, said Hilit F. Mechaber, M.D. ’95, senior associate dean for student affairs. She urged students to reach out for help when dealing with the inevitable challenges that will arise during their training.

“Medical students don’t often ask for help, it’s not something they are used to doing,” Dr. Mechaber said. “We make sure they have what they need to succeed. We focus on academic counseling and support as well as career counseling, well-being, and student professional development starting from the very first few weeks of medical school.”

“Our role is not only to provide support through these services, but we want to make sure each and every student really thrives in their time here, both academically and professionally,” added Julie Belkowitz, M.D., M.P.H. assistant dean for student affairs. “We are here to support them every step along the way.”

Chris Alabiad, M.D. ’02, also an assistant dean for student affairs, talked about the need for students to fully understand attendance policies, credits, grades, and graduation requirements.

“We consider our office to be an office of tough love,” said Dr. Alabiad. “We want to support our students, but we want to make sure we hold students accountable to our policies.”

The orientation also served as an opportunity to learn about the Miller School’s commitment to diversity. Nanette Vega, Ed.D. ’20, assistant dean for diversity, inclusion and community engagement introduced her office’s work to create a welcoming and equitable learning experience throughout the medical school.

“We believe diversity, inclusion and equity are key drivers of institutional excellence,” Dr. Vega said. “Our office is committed to developing a culture of inclusion, in which our doctors, and learners, experience a genuine sense of belonging and achievement.”

The MPA orientation closed with a Q&A session with student leaders from key volunteer student groups, such as the Mitchell Wolfson Sr. Department of Community Service (Wolfson DOCS) program.

Wolfson DOCS, which provides vital health care screenings for thousands of medically underserved South Florida residents each year, is supported by MPA volunteers.

Dr. Lawer-Garcia encouraged parents to join the MPA and help their students achieve their goals. “In the past, members have supported many initiatives, such as Wolfson DOCS health fairs and student awards,” she said. “We will continue to use these funds to improve the Miller School experience for students and position them for success.”

For more on the Medical Parents Association, contact [email protected]. To join the Medical Parents Association, visit bit.ly/MPAMembership2021.

Tags: Dr. Alex Mechaber, Dr. Amar Deshpande, Dr. Henri Ford, DREAM scholarship program, Medical Parents Association