Aug. 4, 2020 — Long before they’re taught proper procedural techniques or shown how to diagnose various illnesses, new students at the UF College of Medicine are given perhaps the most important lesson of all: how to compassionately care for each and every patient, regardless of identity or status. Instilling a commitment to culturally competent care was a top priority among faculty and student leaders as the 135 members of the class of 2024 gathered for orientation last week.
UF College of Medicine Interim Dean Joseph A. Tyndall, M.D., M.P.H., welcomed the students and commended them on choosing a career path that demands self-sacrifice and the tireless support of those in need.
“Medicine is about giving to others when others need our support,” Tyndall said. “I want to say congratulations to all of you. You’ve chosen an amazing career path, and we’re going to walk with you, supporting you all the way. You’re going to learn how to not just take care of people’s illnesses but to take care of people of all walks of life and understand their perspectives. My hope is that you all will become better human beings.”
Jay Lynch, M.D., the assistant dean of admissions and a professor of medicine, shared with students the Office of Admissions’ goals to recruit and help train the “next generation of caring, compassionate and culturally competent medical professionals.” He used examples from world history, the College of Medicine’s past and his own life to illustrate just how powerful a community — like the one they’re now part of at the College of Medicine — can be.
Though orientation looked different this year due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, with safety precautions including a mandatory facemask rule, spaced out seating and students divided into small groups throughout the Harrell Medical Education Building, the first-year medical students still received words of wisdom and a surprise gift from the Gator M.D. community. On Thursday afternoon, South Florida physician Mark Michels, M.D. ’85, president of the Medical Alumni Board of Directors, delivered remarks virtually to present students with their first stethoscopes, which were presented to each member of the class of 2024 as a gift from alumni.
“As the patient literally bares their chest, they share their deepest fears and concerns to the physician, who’s compelled to lean in and listen to so much more than the internal organs,” Michels said.
During a four-hour session Friday afternoon, students heard talks and participated in activities focused on diversity, inclusion and compassionate care. During a presentation about implicit bias and microaggressions, Donna Parker, M.D. ’90, associate dean for diversity and health equity, explained to students that the college aims to be a safe space where students are encouraged to report any mistreatment they may experience and where they feel welcomed and valued.
“Everyone in this class has earned their right to be here,” Parker said. “I don’t want anyone to feel less than. Having that sense of belonging is very important to success.”
Class of 2023 diversity liaisons Esther Duqueney and Samari Blair led the new students in interactive activities, including taking an implicit bias test to assess what racial stereotypes students may be subconsciously harboring or what microaggressions they may have faced or perpetrated themselves.
“These conversations are uncomfortable to have, but they need to happen,” Duqueney said. “We want students to leave reflecting on ways that they can work toward improving diversity and inclusivity not only at the UF College of Medicine but throughout their medical training.”
“Literature shows that having compassionate, culturally sensitive physicians caring for patients leads to better patient satisfaction and outcomes,” Blair said. “Here at UF, we are dedicated to providing the best patient care possible for the community. That means having these difficult conversations about race relations, health disparities and social determinants of health, and dedicating ourselves to making sure our curriculum builds us into the best physicians we can be.”