By Wendy Sarubbi | February 11, 2013 2:37 pm

Four years ago, 41 pioneering students took a chance on an upstart University of Central Florida medical school opening in temporary facilities.

The class became the first in U.S. medical school history in which every student received a full scholarship, thanks to generous donations from the Central Florida community. However, the students enrolled knowing they would not find out until a few months before graduating whether the college would earn the full accreditation necessary for them to advance to their residencies and begin pursuing careers as doctors.

Those pioneering students can now celebrate. The UCF College of Medicine has earned full accreditation following a rigorous, independent review of its educational program.

“This achievement is a credit to the efforts of our outstanding College of Medicine staff members and faculty members. They are preparing our students for a lifetime of providing high-quality, compassionate care,” said UCF President John C. Hitt, who made the announcement at a news conference Monday with Dr. Deborah German, vice president for medical affairs and founding dean of the College of Medicine.

“Accreditation also is a testament to the generosity of our Central Florida community. From government and health-care partners to volunteer faculty members and scholarship donors, many supporters stepped up to make this our community’s medical school.”

The accreditation was granted by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the national accrediting authority for all medical schools in the United States and Canada. Accreditation provides assurances that “graduates exhibit general professional competencies that are appropriate for entry to the next stage of their training and that serve as the foundation for lifelong learning and proficient medical care.”

com-building-2Earning full accreditation has been one of German’s top priorities since she was hired in December 2006. She recruited top faculty members and community partners who collaborated with her to set up an innovative curriculum, and she oversaw construction of the college’s state-of-the-art facilities at Lake Nona. The curricula and facilities are both key components of earning full accreditation.

German thanked the community, donors, business leaders, the college’s health-care partners and more than 2,000 volunteer faculty members for “helping this medical school grow from a cattle pasture to an educational cornerstone of a thriving Medical City. I am sincerely and humbly grateful to all of you.”

“This is just the latest example of the collaboration that makes things happen here,” German added. “It’s also the reason why our college is the community’s medical school. You made this possible through your financial donations, countless volunteer hours and commitment to our students. This is a day of celebration for all of us.”

Full accreditation is the first in a series of milestones this year at the young medical school. On March 15, members of the charter class will participate in Residency Match Day 2013, when students learn where they will attend their residencies. The charter class will graduate on May 17.

The college selected the 41 charter students out of more than 4,000 applicants. The medical school opened in 2009 in temporary facilities near the main UCF campus. In 2010, the students and faculty members moved into a $65 million, 170,000-square foot medical education building at Lake Nona that includes state-of-the-art labs, classrooms, technology and a library that is 98 percent digital.

Today, the College of Medicine is the centerpiece of a growing Medical City that also features the Sanford-Burnham Institute for Medical Research, Nemours Children’s Hospital, the MD Anderson Cancer Center, the VA Hospital, and a University of Florida research facility, among other buildings. Together, UCF and its Medical City partners are projected to create 30,000 jobs and an annual economic impact of $7.6 billion by the end of 2017.

“Initially, many people questioned whether the plans for our College of Medicine would ever materialize,” Hitt said. “Today, our fully accredited college is part of a bustling Medical City considered by many to be the biggest economic game changer for Central Florida since Walt Disney World.”

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