By Wendy Sarubbi | June 26, 2017 4:23 pm

Dr. Dionardo Medina spent the last three years in residency training at St. Barnabas Hospital in New York. Today he’s at a UCF Endocrinology fellowship that will train him to care for patients with conditions like diabetes and thyroid disease.

“I chose UCF because it has a great reputation,” he said as he gathered June 22 with 142 other physicians who started as residents and fellows at the College of Medicine’s 10 new residency programs this year. “I love Florida and the diversity of the area means you get to meet people from many different cultures and backgrounds. Over the next two years, I just want to learn as much as I can and be ready for the world.”

This year’s newest residents and fellows are the largest and most diverse to date to train at a partnership graduate medical education program between the College of Medicine and Hospital Corporation of America. The physicians are natives of more than 15 countries and include eight graduates from the UCF College of Medicine. They will care for patients at Osceola Regional Medical Center, Ocala Regional Medical Center and North Florida Regional Medical Center in Gainesville. The growing programs are the result of a UCF-HCA consortium that hopes to bring 600-plus new residency slots to Florida by 2020.

As she welcomed the residents, Dr. Deborah German, vice president for medical affairs and founding dean of the College of Medicine, told them they are part of UCF’s mission to anchor a Medical City that will become a premier destination for medical research, patient care and education.

“For each and every one of you, the work that you do will be part of making this a reality,” she said.  “You are doing things, you are saving lives, you are making people’s lives better and you will keep learning more and more.”

Ninety-five physicians will train in Internal, Emergency and Family Medicine at Osceola, Ocala and Gainesville.  Sixteen will join a new General Surgery program in Ocala. Fourteen will do a transitional year at Osceola, where they receive one year of generalized training before entering specialty training, a requirement for areas like ophthalmology and radiology.  Three will train in Obstetrics and Gynecology in Osceola, four in the new Neurology program also in Osceola, nine will join the new Psychiatry program in Gainesville and two will complete Endocrinology fellowships in Osceola.

Dr. Diane Davey, UCF’s associate dean for graduate medical education and professor of pathology, said this large group of residents are pioneers who will help to strengthen young programs while addressing the physician shortage in Florida and nationwide.

“At UCF, we have the best of both worlds,” Dr. Davey said.  We have the backing of a large university, a successful medical school and partnership with HCA, one of the biggest providers of hospital health care in this country. They are invested in graduate medical education and that’s one of the reasons we are working together on this very successful partnership.”

Drs. Khawaja Bashir from Pakistan, Kathlyn Camargo Macias from Colombia, Nadia Elias from Lebanon and Roberto Pineda Reyes from Peru saw each other for the first time at the June 22 orientation but have been friends since March. Shortly after Match Day, the four connected via social media with the 18 other Internal Medicine residents who will do their training at Osceola Regional and the Orlando VA Medical Center. They’ve been bonding ever since.

“It’s crazy, because we haven’t even started the program yet and we feel like we already know each other,” Dr. Pineda Reyes said. “We speak practically every day, and update each other on moving and share pictures of our apartments, so it’s helping us adjust. Even though we speak seven different languages among us, we all have English in common.”

“I like this program because it is a growing university program,” said Dr. Camargo Macias, who is from a family of physicians. “It is academic and we have two hospitals where we will be practicing. I really love the broad patient population and the variety of patients that we are going to see.”

Some physicians, like Dr. Virmarie Diaz Fernandez, began residency training in other programs and transferred to UCF. Dr. Diaz Fernandez completed a year of Psychiatry residency at the University of Puerto Rico, and came to UCF to join her husband, Dr. Joan Morales Lappot who is a third-year Internal Medicine resident at UCF.

“I am really motivated because this program is new,” she said.  “I am really interested in forensic psychiatry and … I am looking forward to the opportunity to give my feedback on the program, since it’s so new.”

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