March 18, 2022 — Growing up, Mary D. Patterson, M.D., M.Ed., never pictured herself becoming a physician, but since childhood, she’s always had a curious mind and an inclination to find out how things work.
“My mother was a nurse, and my father was a chemist,” Patterson said. “So, I grew up in a household that valued science, but more importantly, my parents showed my siblings and me the meaning of caring about the well-being of others.”
Patterson recalled her family volunteering together with the United Farm Workers labor union and having the chance to meet its founder, civil rights activist Cesar Chavez. Eventually, the values instilled from home led Patterson to medical school and a career as a pediatric emergency medicine physician, an accomplished medical educator, and as of this week, chair of the department of emergency medicine at the UF College of Medicine.
Dean Colleen Koch, M.D., M.S., M.B.A., announced March 16 that Patterson was selected for the leadership role after serving as interim chair since July 1.
“The last eight months have shown me what a truly exceptional department we have,” Patterson said. “Our strength is in our people — our faculty, trainees and staff are some of the most gifted and dedicated individuals in emergency medicine.”
Patterson first joined the College of Medicine faculty in 2018 as associate dean of experiential learning and the Lou Oberndorf Professor of Healthcare Technology. She and colleagues that include Tom Lemaster, M.Ed., and Rosemarie Fernandez, M.D., established the UF Center for Experiential Learning and Simulation, a nationally recognized center that builds on the college’s rich history in developing, testing and integrating simulation technologies into health care education and training for the purpose of improving patient safety and outcomes.
“Very often we focus on issues within systems to identify means for improving processes to help those systems function better,” said Patterson, who will continue to serve in her role as associate dean, facilitating the strategic expansion of experiential learning across UF Health.
As chair of emergency medicine, Patterson will draw on her expertise in experiential learning and systems analysis to lead the department. She aims to integrate some of the systems work with resilience engineering to ensure the department delivers the highest quality of care to its patients. She also will look for opportunities to develop the research program and scholarly work in a number of areas.
“It’s important to me that our faculty feel valued, and that they know the work they do matters to our patients and to the larger community,” Patterson said. “We have a wonderful department, and I want to ensure the rest of the world knows it.”