By Wendy Sarubbi | May 20, 2016 6:21 pm

“SP Dave” came to Friday’s College of Medicine graduation for one simple reason: “These students, now doctors, are like family to me. I’ve watched them grow up.”

Dave Shaheen is a Standardized Patient (SP) at the med school’s Clinical Skills and Simulation Center, an “actor” who pretends to be a patient and helps M.D. students learn to do physical exams, take patient histories and communicate with clarity and compassion. He has been an SP since the College of Medicine began classes in 2009 and this year was named SP of the Year for his effectiveness in educating tomorrow’s doctors.

On May 20, he came to graduation to send off the young physicians he had helped train. After receiving their diplomas, students gathered outside the UCF Venue with family, friends, faculty, staff and Shaheen. They shook his hand and gave him hugs. They talked about how patient he had been, when they were first-year students struggling to remember everything they’d been taught about providing compassionate care.

“When I walked into the room on exam day and saw you as my patient, I always thought, ‘Thank God it’s Dave,” student, now Dr. Engy Habashy told her teacher. “You always had a smile on your face. It put me at ease.” As they were talking, Shaheen asked Habashy where she was doing her residency – the University of Cincinnati for urology, she told him. “So you’re going to be a plumber,” he chuckled. “My dad was a plumber. Small world.”

Dr. Benjamin Edmonds is going into a pediatric residency in Pittsburgh and ultimately wants to provide neurological care to children. He said Shaheen’s best skill was providing constructive feedback on how students could improve their clinical and communication skills. He was clear, Dr. Edmonds said, but always positive. “He made us better,” he said.

As the young doctors stood with Shaheen and Dean Deborah German, the Standardized Patient smiled wistfully as his former students talked of their futures. “I’m so proud of them,” he said. “They’ve worked so hard to become doctors.”

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