Dr. Dean Deborah German interacting with a couple of students during a Second Look visit in April.
Team Quickly Turning UCF College of Medicine into Premier Medical School
By the time the doors open to the first class of 40 students at the University of Central Florida (UCF) College of Medicine on Aug. 3, the team that launched the medical school will have already distinguished the new institution nationally on several levels.
For starters, the UCF College of Medicine represents the first medical school in the history of American medicine to offer a scholarship to every student in a class. All 40 students will get a full ride, including living expenses, thanks to $7 million raised in the community.
That's why 4,307 potential physicians applied for 40 spots. The financial incentive intensified the competition for entry into the UCF College of Medicine. The medical school attracted an average of 107 applicants per spot, compared to the 30 to 50 applicants per spot at the nation's top medical schools. The response also distinguished the application pool as the most competitive for entry to any state-funded school in Florida.
Also impressive: when the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) visited the campus of the UCF College of Medicine, the accrediting agency cited the school as having the potential to become a national model in its knowledge management and assessment programs.
The UCF College of Medicine is part of an emerging medical city, making it unique and extraordinary. The college is located at the UCF Health Sciences Campus in Lake Nona's medical city and includes a strong research program in the Burnett Biomedical Sciences Building, a medical library, and other UCF health sciences programs.
Perhaps the most remarkable feat: building a brand-new educational facility while also hiring more than 200 full-time employees and assembling a volunteer faculty of more than 800 within 32 months.
"We've come a long way since December 2006," said Deborah German, MD, dean of the UCF College of Medicine. "From the very beginning, I knew that in order to have a great medical school, we needed great people. So from the beginning, we've been looking for people who strive for excellence and have a pioneering spirit and a desire to be part of something larger than themselves. We've hired scientists, clinicians, educators, and support professionals in technology and
other areas to help achieve that goal. Every member of our team shares the vision of setting us on the path to become this century's premier medical school, which makes the team work so effectively together."
German served as the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine's senior associate dean and was president and CEO at Saint Thomas Hospital in Nashville. She spent a year at the Association of American Medical Colleges in Washington, DC, as a Petersdorf Scholar in Residence.
Three of the five finalists for the dean's position dropped out because they believed the timetable was too short and the funds were too limited. "There were so many challenges," said German, who officially began work in December 2007. "The first challenge was the challenge of time. The second challenge was the challenge of resources. Both of these challenges were overcome by our community. We're all working together to build a medical school and medical city that belongs to all of us.
"Part of getting the best people is getting the best students. We will be judged by how well they do and many of them will be caring for us in the future."
Whittling down the application pool from more than 4,000 to 40 was another daunting task, one that will be repeated for the 2010 incoming class. UCF plans to eventually produce about 120 medical school graduates every year.
"The application process was very intense," German said. "The applications were forwarded to us from a national database. Three reviewers did the initial screening of every application and determined the 250 applicants who were brought to campus for interviews. We looked carefully at each applicant. We wanted students who were bright and we could determine that from their MCAT score and GPA. We also wanted students who had a heart for medicine and a healthy dose of curiosity."
Once the 250 finalists were selected, the students were invited to the campus for a day. In groups of 12, the students typically began the day with a short session with German, followed by two 1-hour interviews with faculty members, a tour of one of UCF's hospital partners, a site visit to the medical school campus, and a quick Q&A session.
Next, a 12-member committee met routinely to review the applications, including the reports of the interviewers and of those who interacted with the students during their time at UCF.
"From all that data, our committee selected the candidates who were offered admission," said German, adding that all participating committees are advisory to the dean, except one. "The only committee with autonomy is the admissions committee, and there's a reason for that. The admission of a medical student should be the work of a group. I don't believe any single individual has the right to determine who becomes a doctor."
German is passionate about the team's progress in making the UCF College of Medicine the best of its kind in the nation.
"I don't know how long it will take us to get that ranking," she said. "My job is to set the footprint in place that will allow us to become the best, and not put down a foundation that's weak or small or not as thoughtful as it needs to be. Because of our team's efforts, we're well on our way to successfully achieving our vision."