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Medical Parents Association Welcomes Class of 2026 Parents with Virtual Orientation

Every year, on the eve of their students’ first day of medical school, the Medical Parents Association (MPA) hosts a special orientation that offers parents and family members a meaningful glimpse into what lies ahead for their students at the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. The evening includes an overview of the Miller School’s curriculum, policies, and student resources, as well as information to help parents stay involved throughout their student’s journey and how they can be supportive from near or far.

“Tanya and I are parents of a second-year student, so we share your excitement and pride,” said Nelson Garcia, M.D. ’96, who, along with his wife, Tanya Lawer-Garcia, M.D. ’96, is co-president of the MPA, a volunteer organization that serves as a liaison to the faculty and administration representing medical students, their parents, and families.

Dean Henri Ford, M.D., M.H.A.
Henri Ford, M.D., M.H.A., dean and chief academic officer of the Miller School, welcomes parents.

“This is one of the finest medical schools in the country,” added Dr. Lawer-Garcia. “Tonight is your chance to learn everything you 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 pointed to the school’s No. 43 position in U.S. News & World Report’s national rankings for 2021 — up nine places from when he arrived four years ago.

“I’m proud to say your students are joining a premier academic medical center that is on a journey to become one of the preeminent medical schools in the nation,” Dean Ford said. “When they leave the Miller School, they will be uniquely trained to influence the way care is delivered and to innovate new solutions for the health issues of our time.”

Record Number of Applicants

Dean Ford gave insight to this year’s record number of applications sent in by potential students: The Miller School received 11,017 applications for the Class of 2026, an exceptionally competitive pool with the highest GPAs and MCATs of any entering class in the school’s history. A total of 204 students matriculated, including 152 in the M.D. program and 52 in the M.D./M.P.H. program.

Fifty-five percent of the M.D. class comes from outside the state of Florida, 55% are women, 53% are minorities, and 26% are minorities underrepresented in medicine.

“Within four years, your students will graduate from this program,” said Latha Chandran, M.D., M.P.H., executive dean for education and policy, founding chair of the Department of Medical Education, and Bernard J. Fogel Chair in Medical Education. “We are committed to our ultimate goal of preparing them for the next phase of their training. For the last three years we have performed above the national match rate, with 96% of our students matching into the specialty of their choice.”

NextGenMD’s Novel Approach

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 NextGenMD, the Miller School’s innovative curriculum now entering its third year.

“At the Miller School, we teach our students to empower others, transform lives, and serve the global community,” said Dr. Deshpande. “This isn’t just a tagline, but the foundation of our program.”

NextGenMD takes a novel approach to integrate 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 innovative 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.

“One of our major goals is to equip our students to operate in really complex health systems and become transformational leaders in healthcare,” said Dr. Agarwal.

A Plethora of Programs and Resources

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

“Students will have the opportunity to apply for one of the 10 to 12 spots in this extremely competitive and rewarding program,” said Chris Alabiad, M.D. ’02, assistant dean for student affairs. “It gives our students a well-rounded foundation in research along with opportunities to engage with researchers around campus and a platform to showcase their work.”

Hilit F. Mechaber, M.D. ’95, senior associate dean for student affairs, informed parents about the many resources available to their students to deal with the inevitable challenges that will arise during their training.

“When I talk to parents, I always emphasize that one of the most important things you can do throughout this journey is encourage your students to seek help when they need it,” said Dr. Mechaber. “They are pursuing a profession where they can help others, and oftentimes feel very vulnerable when they are the ones needing help.”

“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.”

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 and implementing a culture of inclusion, in which our doctors, your sons and daughters, experience a genuine sense of belonging and achievement.”

The MPA orientation concluded following a question-and-answer session with student leaders from key volunteer student groups.

Dr. Lawer-Garcia encouraged parents to join the MPA and help their students achieve their goals.

“The Medical Parents Association will be with your students every step of the way to support student programs and activities,” she said. “To be successful, we need everyone to participate.”

For more information on the Medical Parents Association, contact [email protected] or visit med.miami.edu/giving/parents-association. To join the Medical Parents Association, fill out the membership form here.

If you would like to explore how your family can support the Miller School of Medicine, please contact Megan Brahimi at [email protected].

Tags: Dean Henri Ford, Dr. Amar Deshpande, Dr. Gauri Agarwal, Dr. Latha Chandran, Dr. Nanette Vega, DREAM scholarship program, Medical Parents Association, Miller School of Medicine, Miller School of Medicine Class of 2026, NextGenMD