Miller School Wins ASPIRE-to-Excellence Award for Social Accountability

The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine has been on the forefront of social accountability and community outreach for years, and now the school is being recognized for its impact. The Miller School of Medicine was recently awarded the prestigious ASPIRE-to-Excellence Award by the Association of Medical Educators in Europe, an international organization of health professions educators, for providing essential care in underserved communities.  

ASPIRE-to-Excellence Award for Social Accountability

The application process took almost a year and considerable effort from a dedicated team to demonstrate the breadth and depth of social accountability initiatives at the school, said Latha Chandran, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., executive dean for education, chair of the Department of Medical Education. “This is part of the institutional culture.”

The Miller School has a rich history of tackling health care disparities by promoting access to quality care, preventative services and health education. The association praised the school’s wide array of programs and partnerships, including the student-led Mitchell Wolfson Sr. Department of Community Service (DOCS) program, which offers health fairs in communities across South Florida, and the IDEA Exchange, which improves access to vital treatment for communities facing high risk of overdose and HIV infection.

Dr. Chandran accepted the award in front of more than 4,000 attendees at the association’s meeting in Glasgow, Scotland on August 28.

“It was wonderful. It was truly an honor for the school to receive this international recognition in front of our peers,” she said.

Not the First Miller School ASPIRE Award

The school previously won an ASPIRE-to-Excellence Award in 2017 for being on the forefront of simulation in medical education. 

Medical students in the Mitchell Wolfson Sr. Department of Community Service program volunteering at one of their local South Florida health fairs.

“It is humbling to have your international peers independently evaluate the work that you’ve done and to recognize you,” said Barry Issenberg, M.D., professor of medicine, Michael S. Gordon Chair of Medical Education, senior associate dean for research in medical education, and director of the Gordon Center for Simulation and Innovation.

One of the driving factors behind the award is acknowledgement. When medical schools get ranked, the focus tends to be on the research and clinical offerings, Dr. Issenberg said. 

“Education gets lost,” he said. “The criteria they use to rank the component of medical education is so small, that it’s really almost an afterthought.”

In come the ASPIRE Awards to fix that. A medical school focused on faculty development, tracking how well students are learning essential skills, and how well it serves as a model to other schools worldwide are additional considerations behind the ASPIRE award. 

Dr. Chandran also took note of the ASPIRE-to-Excellence Award after seeing a consensus among nationwide medical student graduate questionnaire results. 

Latha Chandran, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A (far right) accepts the ASPIRE-to-Excellence Award for Social Accountability

“What struck me is that in all areas of community-related engagement and service, our students are at the 98 percentile,” she said. “This is what medical schools should be doing, and we thought that social accountability would be our area to demonstrate excellence.”

Latha Chandran, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A

After nearly a year of collaborative effort, “It felt good that all our efforts paid off,” Dr. Chandran said. “Although I was the only one who could be at the meeting in person, I want that joy and energy to be shared with the people who did the work. So we’re going to have to celebratory event on October 4.”

Tags: community outreach, Dr. Barry Issenberg, Gordon Center for Simulation and Innovation, medical education, Mitchell Wolfson Sr. Department of Community Service