July 29, 2022 — Some are military veterans, while others are jazz musicians. Some became interested in the medical field due to family illnesses or by getting firsthand experience working inside intensive care units.
Despite their varied backgrounds, all 135 members of the UF College of Medicine’s M.D. class of 2026 are united by a calling to care for others. The students began their medical school journeys this week with orientation, coming together in person for the first time. They also met some of the faculty members who will be by their side through the lessons and challenges of medical school.
“It is a pleasure to welcome you on your journey to becoming a Gator M.D.,” said Dean Colleen Koch, M.D., M.S., M.B.A., during an evening reception with the students. “While many of you are strangers in the room, you will form bonds that will last for the rest of your life.”
Koch also noted the many opportunities for students to share ideas and shape the UF medical school experience for themselves and their peers, citing the new artificial intelligence curriculum and an elective rotation in geriatric medicine at UF Health The Villages® Hospital, both born from student suggestions as part of the college’s strategic planning process.
During orientation, the class of 2026 learned more about the college community and each other through various discussions and activities centered on diversity and inclusion, wellness and maintaining balance.
Joseph Fantone, M.D., senior associate dean for educational affairs, said it was heartwarming and exciting to see everyone together for orientation.
“We hope you have a great time growing together, and all of us are here to support you,” he said. “I can’t convey enough about the energy I felt in this room with everyone interacting with each other and that’s what we want to really foster: a sense of community.”
Jay Lynch, M.D., assistant dean of admissions, shared statistics with the class during his presentation. More than 38% of the M.D. class of 2026 self-identify as disadvantaged or from a background that is underrepresented in medicine — the highest percentage in the college’s history.
“You have something to learn from every person in this room,” Lynch said. “Especially those who you don’t agree with. Just like it’s important to learn from others surrounding you today, it’s also important to listen to your patients and understand their experiences.”
On their first day of medical school, the members of the class of 2026 also received a special gift — their first stethoscopes. The symbolic pieces of medical equipment, which the students will use to listen to patients’ hearts and breathing when they begin their rotations, were purchased with donations from college alumni.
“This is one of the fundamental tools that will help you along the way during your time in medical school,” said Shireen Madani Sims, M.D. ’01, assistant dean for student affairs and president of the UF medical alumni board. “I still use the stethoscope I was given during medical school in my practice.”