College faculty, students and alumni prioritize acts of service
In recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s call to service, we spotlight the college community’s efforts
Jan. 25, 2023 — “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”
These words, spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., urge communities to come together and work toward a better world, acting as a reminder that a life worth living is always spent in the service of others.
“Medicine is one of many avenues that we may choose to serve others,” said Michelle Jacobs, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry and an assistant dean for diversity and health equity at the UF College of Medicine. “I serve others as my way to pay it forward for those who gave of themselves to my family when we were in need.”
Whether as individuals caring for family, friends and neighbors or as a community serving students, patients, colleagues and the region, team members all across the College of Medicine create lasting value through their daily efforts to make the world better. Here, a few individuals from the college community discuss the service projects they participate in and the importance of giving back in their own words.
Snapshots of service from the college community
Members of the Lillian S. Wells Department of Neurosurgery participate in monthly community service projects through an initiative launched by Brian L. Hoh, M.D., M.B.A., when he became chair in 2018. “It’s a way for faculty, staff, trainees and students to roll up their sleeves and work side by side to help our community in a setting where there is no hierarchy,” Hoh said. “We’re all part of the team giving back.”
During the 2022 College of Medicine Celebration of Diversity Week, the college hosted a panel discussion featuring community leaders and advocates, who shared their thoughts on what the college and UF Health are doing well to advance inclusion within the community and discover potential future collaborations that can drive greater progress. “It is so important that we put what we’re learning into practice with the community,” said Donna Parker, M.D. ’90, the associate dean for the Office of Diversity and Health Equity. “I look forward to collaborating and getting our faculty and learners involved with the community to better address the social determinants of health that we can improve upon by working closely with others in our city and county.”
Each year, the UF Mobile Outreach Clinic meets disadvantaged populations where they are to provide health care services to the medically underserved in low-income neighborhoods and rural areas of North Central Florida. The clinic recently received an award from Florida Blue for its meaningful impact in the community. “Working together with our community to meet needs, build relationships and reach toward our shared goal of building a culture of flourishing physical and mental health in Alachua County is why the Mobile Outreach Clinic exists and why I and all of our staff and providers look forward to our work every day,” said Grant Harrell, M.D. ’10, an assistant professor of family medicine and the medical director of the Mobile Outreach Clinic.
For first-year medical student Jim Norris, a petty officer first class in the U.S. Navy, his interest in a career in medicine stemmed from the shared values of the profession and his military background. “When you’re in the military, you have a support system; you feel like your job has meaning,” he said. “And then it’s difficult to find something like that in the civilian sector. But after really evaluating what I wanted to do, being a doctor seemed like it most aligned with my values. In the military, the intent is to help people — to do something that’s going to benefit others. I think that aligns well with medicine.”
Mike Nuccio, MPAS ’02, is a physician assistant specializing in orthopedic surgery in rural Marianna, Florida. Through involvement with the Florida Academy of Physician Assistants, he and his fellow PAs inform state legislators and advocate for new policies to advance and improve the profession. “A lot of people don’t become involved in legislative issues because they’re worried about being asked a question they don’t know the answer to. The answer to that would be, ‘I don’t know, but I’ll find out,” he said. “Legislators are regular people who want to help their constituents, and they want to listen to the facts and people who are at the ground level.”
In August, the Women in Medicine and Science advisory board and Office of Faculty Affairs and Professional Development, along with the Medi-Gators Virtual Shadowing Program run through the department of neurology, hosted a field trip from a local all-girls school and nonprofit to introduce young female students to the wide possibilities of careers in science and medicine. “The idea of paying it forward is part of the mission of many groups on campus, and these three groups in particular,” said Ellen Zimmermann, M.D., the college’s associate dean for faculty development. “This event includes faculty, housestaff, medical students and undergraduate students, and the aim is to help inspire the next generation of physicians and scientists.”
The UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine program enables physicians to provide holistic care for patients, connecting them to artists-in-residence to participate in activities like dance, tai chi, painting, collaging and music to help improve physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. “This program really enriches the lives of our patients,” said Bill Slayton, M.D. ’92, the division chief of pediatric hematology and oncology. “Especially if they’re in the hospital, it helps them spend this time in a way that helps them heal and grow. It can make the difference between their stay being a bad experience or a good experience. I think it’s one of the crown jewels of our hospital and our UF system.”
Katelyn Flaherty, a member of the MD-PhD Training Program, was awarded a Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship from the competitive Fulbright-Hays Program, which allowed her to conduct a medical needs assessment and pilot a telemedicine and medication delivery service in Ghana in 2022, aimed at improving the services available in low- and middle-income countries. “It’s such an honor to represent UF and the Fulbright Program from Ghana,” she said. “This is important to study because communicable diseases are very prevalent in Ghana and among some of the top causes of pediatric morbidity and mortality. Providing early treatment can prevent disease progression and reduce the need for emergency services and hospitalization later on.”