For children of University of Florida College of Medicine alumni, Saturday’s commencement ceremony not only marked the celebration of a job well done; it also marked the continuation of a family tradition.
The idea of bleeding orange and blue rings as true as any metaphor can for Michael Ullman, whose family practically has The Gator Nation running through its veins.
The 26-year-old Pensacola native grew up hearing stories about the University of Florida from his alumni parents, ophthalmologist Saul Ullman, M.D. ’82, and pharmacist Nancy Ullman, who met while at the university.
“[My father] would always talk about how UF really gave him not only his family but also the opportunity to provide for his family,” Michael Ullman said.
As children, he and his twin brother David would sometimes visit their father’s office — which was filled with Gator memorabilia — and would watch him work.
“I’m sure my earliest influence was seeing my dad interacting with patients and really enjoying what he did,” said Michael Ullman, who earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from UF in 2011 and graduated from the UF College of Medicine on Saturday. (His twin brother also studied chemistry at UF and graduated from the Florida State University College of Medicine on Saturday as well).
“I always just liked the idea of medicine,” Michael Ullman said. “It’s not like other professions, where when you do well, someone else does poorly. In medicine, if you do a good job, you treated someone and you took care of someone.”
And though he said he loves Gainesville and appreciates the opportunities the town has provided him, he’s looking forward to exploring Washington, D.C., where he will follow in his father’s footsteps once again by pursuing a residency in ophthalmology — this time at Georgetown University Hospital/Washington Hospital Center.
“Ophthalmology is a very upbeat field of medicine,” Saul Ullman said. “I have a great passion for ophthalmology, and I think [Michael] sensed that. A lot of the things I found so rewarding, he does too.”
The elder Ullman said it’s a “dream come true” to see his twins graduate from medical school. As a member of the UF Medical Alumni Board, he had the unique opportunity to take part in the UF ceremony by presenting Michael with the academic hood that signifies the transition from student to physician.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing in terms of legacy, and I hope that one day I’ll be attending my grandson or granddaughter’s graduation at UF,” said Saul Ullman. “Hopefully we’ll continue the tradition.”
For Chris Monsour, attending the UF College of Medicine meant not only following in his father’s footsteps but also returning to his birthplace.
After all, the 36-year-old was born at UF Health Shands Hospital during his father’s last year of medical school (he was delivered by the beloved Hugh M. “Smiley” Hill, M.D., associate dean for student and alumni affairs). And, to bring his story full-circle, he will continue the Gator tradition by completing an internal medicine residency in Gainesville.
“I’m excited to start working at the hospital where I was born,” he said.
Though he recalls being amazed at how quickly his father, radiologist Frederick Monsour, M.D. ’79, could dictate X-rays and being fascinated by the unfamiliar language of medicine, the path to becoming a physician wasn’t always set in stone for Chris, who grew up in Ormond Beach.
After graduating from Harvard Law School and practicing as a lawyer for a couple of years, he eventually decided to switch gears and pursue a career in medicine.
“I felt like I wanted to be doing something that was more physical, more tangible and that was making people’s lives better in a more direct way,” he said.
As for how he settled on medical school, he said he always enjoyed hearing his father talk about his daily work and his ever-evolving profession.
“He and I are both very curious people,” Chris Monsour said. “I knew he enjoyed having a job where things were constantly changing and there was always more to learn, and that appealed to me, too.”
Once he arrived at the UF College of Medicine, he would sometimes imagine his father sitting in the same lecture halls and seeing patients in the same hospital rooms.
“I never would’ve wanted to nudge him in any direction, but once he made the choice [to pursue medicine], I was thrilled because I’ve loved it,” Frederick Monsour said. “It’s nice to think that he has gotten some of the same kind of experiences and satisfaction from it that I have — and he’s just started. I’ve already seen how much he loves it, and I’m happy for that.”
As for what his future holds, Chris Monsour said he’s looking forward to the opportunity to continue learning, working with patients and internal medicine faculty at UF and living up to his father’s example post-graduation.
“I’m excited to keep up the family tradition as a Gator doctor,” he said, “and I hope that I can be as good a doctor as my dad was.”