By Wendy Sarubbi | May 18, 2015 2:33 pm

The College of Medicine took a day to honor its most unique teachers— actors whose lessons to students aren’t given in books or lectures, but with experience and heart. The school’s 70 “Standardized Patients,” who play roles of the sick, injured and their families in the medical school’s Clinical Simulation and Training Center, attended a special luncheon May 14 to recognize their contribution to medical education.

Standardized Patients, or “SPs” are key to helping medical students get clinical experience in a safe and controlled environment. For every Clinical Skills training session, SPs are scripted with a specific scenario, from a routine checkup to a life-threatening diagnosis. They act out their character’s medical issue or need, as students practice their exam, interviewing and patient-care skills in a simulated doctor’s office. College of Medicine Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean Dr. Deborah German personally thanked the standardized patients for their dedication to building compassionate and caring doctors of the future. “It’s the critical piece that is so hard to measure, but so easy for patients to feel,” she said. “The work that you do helps us to achieve that goal.”

Standardized patients are all ages and come from all walks of life. Some are college students working to make extra money for school. Others are stay-at-home parents or retirees. Some have experience in community theater. All say they find the standardized patient experience incredibly rewarding. “You get a lot of personal satisfaction in watching the students grow from their first year to their fourth year,” said Dave Shaheen, a retired NASA finance manager who has been a standardized patient since the charter class entered UCF’s medical school in 2009. “Their improvement is more noticeable year after year.” He and 20 others have served as standardized patients for five years or longer.

The growth of UCF’s medical students was a theme of Dr. German’s welcome as she told the crowd that College of Medicine students score higher than most other medical schools on the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) in both basic science and clinical skills. She also detailed a new partnership with the University of the Virgin Islands, which surveyed every medical school in the country when it decided to open a medical school to improve that nation’s health. UVI narrowed the top choices down to seven and then visited each campus, speaking to faculty and students and reviewing each medical school’s culture and curriculum. Ultimately UVI chose the UCF College of Medicine as its partner and will pay the college $6 million over the next few years to help start its new school. “After hearing Dr. German talk about how the school is being recognized, it’s a really amazing experience to be able to help make great doctors,” said Maria Weizer, a chemistry lab assistant who also works as a standardized patient.

Many of the standardized patients said the job is a great way of giving back in their spare time. “It’s great to be a part of helping young people that are highly motivated,” said Dave Rohenkohl, who joined the team after retiring as a NASA engineer. “I’ve seen the space shuttles go up and down, but I have to say—this job is pretty amazing, too.”

The College of Medicine is accepting new standardized patients. If’ you’re interested in getting involved, contact Rhonda Anderson-Robinson at (407) 266-1153 or click here for more information.

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