By Wendy Sarubbi | November 22, 2016 8:55 am

UCF Trustee Joe Conte remembers walking through construction dirt in a hard hat with Dean Deborah German as the College of Medicine was being built. He talks about hearing her vision for a new kind of medical school that would train students to have a head and a heart for medicine – and to develop a curriculum that included better ways for physicians to care for special populations like the elderly.

Today, as the med school has admitted eight classes, graduated 263 doctors and just celebrated its 10th anniversary, Conte urges people to tour the medical school because “It’s a special school and you’ll see the difference.”

Conte’s support of the medical school began in its earliest days. He donated a scholarship to the College of Medicine’s Charter Class and this year was the Presenting Sponsor of the anniversary celebration on November 5. The celebration featured fireworks, tours and food from the area’s top chefs and restaurants. In addition to family and friends, Conte brought to the celebration the med student he had sponsored – now Dr. Jonathan Gullet, a pathologist doing his fellowship training at Emory University, where he is working for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. “He was so proud,” Conte said of the young physician Knight.

Other key sponsors for the event were Disney, which donated fireworks that Dr. German said “lit up the College of Medicine like Cinderella’s Castle,” and The Ginsberg Family Foundation, whose support built the college’s Harriet F. Ginsberg Health Sciences Library.

Conte’s business focus is healthcare, having operated nursing homes across the country as president and chief executive officer of Consulate Health Care and Tandem Health Care.

He said he is most proud of the diversity of the College of Medicine’s students and how the medical school has embraced new technology – while also emphasizing cultural sensitivity and compassionate care. He said he loves the “whole transformation” of UCF’s Anatomy Lab as a bright, fourth-floor location that honors the generosity of those who gave their bodies to science rather than being in a dark, dingy basement.

He notes that the 21st century curriculum has fostered excellence in medical students, who score in the top quartile nationally in all areas measured. And he says the medical school has been foundational in bringing about economic development from an emerging medical city that incorporates medical education, research and patient care. He says UCF’s proposed partner academic teaching hospital next to the med school will be an extension of that excellence and allow the medical school to keep more of its graduates in Orlando for their residency training and careers.

“You have a gem in Dr. German,” he said. “She has built a medical school that is purpose built for today.”

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