Some have done extensive research on HIV, depression and dolphin viruses.
Some have worked at Burger King and on construction sites.
One is a circus performer; another climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.
The 135 members of the University of Florida College of Medicine’s class of 2020 are as accomplished as they are diverse.
UF College of Medicine orientation activities kicked off Tuesday evening with a meet-and-greet social at First Magnitude Brewing Co. Students also attended a barbecue at Lake Wauburg, CPR training and tours of the entire UF Health campus. On Tuesday, Aug. 2, the class of 2020 will attend a dean’s reception at Emerson Alumni Hall.
Wednesday morning, the students gathered in the George T. Harrell, M.D., Medical Education Building’s south learning studio to attend a discussion entitled “Embracing Diversity,” at which they learned the demographics and life experiences of their classmates. Several faculty from the Office for Diversity and Health Equity presented to students, including associate dean Donna Parker, M.D. ’90, assistant dean Michelle Jacobs, M.D., and LGBT coordinator Stephanie Ryan, M.D. ’02.
Office of Admissions assistant dean and professor of medicine Jay Lynch, M.D., explained that a third of the group is made of underrepresented minorities and disadvantaged students.
Of the 71 women and 64 men in the new class, 61 received undergraduate degrees from the University of Florida, 23 attended other Florida schools and 51 traveled from schools like Duke, Tufts and Notre Dame.
After Lynch presented the College of Medicine’s admission philosophy — creating the next generation of caring, compassionate and culturally competent medical professionals — he offered encouragement to the students on their first day.
“You’re a remarkable group of young men and women,” he said. “Keep the end in mind.”
Some of the class of 2020 had their first taste of the College of Medicine while they were high school students. Michael Jones of Macclenny, Florida, said attending the Health Care Summer Institute in 2011 allowed him to shadow several physicians, including Dr. Innocent Odocha, who taught him the importance of giving back to one’s community.
“Every year, he’d travel to Nigeria where his family was from. He’d visit around 300 patients in a short period of time,” he said. “That really inspired me.”
Annalese Williams of Ocala, Florida, said attending the 2010 Health Care Summer Institute, which is sponsored by the college’s Office for Diversity and Health Equity, convinced her that medicine was her future.
“That jump-started my path toward medicine,” she said. “It’s almost my duty at this point to make sure that everyone receives equal treatment. No one deserves to have lower quality health care because of socioeconomic status or living in a rural area.”
Wednesday afternoon, the students returned to the south learning studio to find a white box decorated with a royal blue bow at each of their seats. Amid gasps, yells and the snaps of phone cameras, orange tissue paper was ripped open to reveal brand-new stethoscopes, courtesy of donations from 107 students from the class of 2016, along with alumni, family and friends, through the College of Medicine Alumni Affairs Stethoscope Fund.
“The stethoscope is one of the most significant symbols of patient care in the practice of medicine,” James B. Duke, M.D. ’85, president of the UF Medical Alumni Affairs Board of Directors, told the students. “You will learn that listening to your patients in multiple ways is a priceless gift.”
Amy Bradshaw of Pontotoc, Mississippi, said she was overcome by the quality of the tool.
“This would have been a lot of money I wouldn’t be able to spend otherwise,” she said. “This process makes you feel very at home in an otherwise nerve-wracking situation.”