May 7, 2020 – As a third-year UF medical student, Ashleigh Wright, M.D. ’07, visited her very first patients and performed her first suture, all under the watchful eye of Robert Hatch, M.D., director of medical student education in the UF department of community health and family medicine. Wright recalls the patience and generosity Hatch showed her, qualities that Wright has aimed to reproduce for today’s medical students in her role as an assistant professor of medicine in the UF division of general internal medicine.
Those qualities of compassion and care that Wright models for her students haven’t gone unappreciated. During a ceremony held May 6, Wright received the 53rd Hippocratic Award for her contributions to medical education.
“I never fully understood what it meant to be humbled by receiving an award before now. To think about all the people who have received this award before me — people from whom I’ve learned like Drs. Hatch, Duff, Lynch, and Novak — I’m so amazed and grateful,” Wright said. “Dr. Hatch made me feel so important and valued as a student. I wanted to be just like him. To find myself 15 years later, maybe in the same league as him, is an amazing accomplishment.”
Each year, the graduating class presents the Hippocratic Award to a clinical faculty member who acts as an exemplary clinician, mentor and role model. Under usual circumstances, the ceremony is held in Wilmot Gardens, near a tree gifted to UF by the Greek minister of agriculture that bears roots from the same tree under which Hippocrates taught his students medicine in ancient Greece. Due to social distancing measures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s ceremony included a small gathering of people in the George T. Harrell, M.D., Medical Education Building that was broadcast to viewers through livestream video.
Class of 2020 President Wayne Dell commended Wright for her dedication, both to improving the curriculum of the Introduction to Clinical Medicine course she teaches to second-year medical students as well as to each of her students individually. Dell presented Wright with a plaque and a statue of Hippocrates.
“She has been an advocate for student education, broadening our lecture content and delivering the best education possible,” Dell said. “She’s been kind and thoughtful. Every interaction she has with students is so poised and so effective. She will be remembered as one of the greatest physicians at the UF College of Medicine.”
Dell also presented fourth-year medical student Jared Freitas with the student Hippocratic Award for the thoughtful care and hours he puts into his medical training, even coming into the Equal Access Clinic Network on his days off. Dell said Freitas was “one of those students who was always first in and last out.”
“I feel extremely humbled and stunned that I was chosen for this,” Freitas said. “We have so many outstanding individuals in our class who go above and beyond in so many ways for their patients, their communities and for their family and friends, and I am in constant awe of them.”
UF College of Medicine Interim Dean Joseph A. Tyndall, M.D., M.P.H., provided the opening remarks for the ceremony and commended the work ethic and commitment of the 33 UF physicians who have received the Hippocratic Award since its inception.
“The physicians who have received this award have dedicated their lives to medicine, to teaching, to the golden art of mentorship,” Tyndall said. “When this class picks a faculty member for this award, it means this faculty member has gone above and beyond what anyone would expect from them. It’s an example they provide for all of us for what it means to be a physician. We’re following in their footsteps.”
Joseph Fantone, M.D., senior associate dean for educational affairs, closed the ceremony by remarking on the quality of both the students and faculty at the UF College of Medicine, who form a community marked by the kind of compassionate care that Wright shows to students, residents and patients alike.
“I get to work with exceptional students and really talented faculty. There’s a real synergism here that creates a vibrant community,” Fantone said. “Dr. Wright has made tremendous contributions. She leads with a firm decisiveness and a gentle touch.”