By Wendy Sarubbi | May 10, 2013 3:02 pm

After four years of milestones and a medical school education paid for by generous donors, the UCF College of Medicine’s charter class graduates on Friday (May 17) and prepares to begin residency training in specialties ranging from primary care to brain surgery.

Commencement ceremonies begin at 10 a.m. at the Venue, behind the UCF Arena on the university’s main campus. UCF President John Hitt, whose dream of a medical school for Orlando began a community-wide effort to get the college, will be the graduation speaker.

“Graduation is a milestone of both individual and collective accomplishment shared by students, families, faculty, staff and the entire community,” said Dr. Deborah German, vice president for medical affairs and founding dean of the College of Medicine.

Forty-one students entered the charter class in 2009 and attended their first year in make-do facilities near the main UCF campus. A year later, the medical school moved to the UCF Health Sciences Campus at Lake Nona, becoming an anchor tenant in the blossoming Medical City life sciences cluster. Combining medical education, research and patient care, Medical City is expected to generate 30,000 jobs and $7.8 billion in annual economic activity by the year 2017, and has been compared to Walt Disney World in terms of its economic impact on Central Florida.

Community support was a key to the medical school’s creation. The Tavistock Company, owners and developers of Lake Nona, donated $12.5 million plus land for the new medical school and the beginnings of Medical City. Founding donors, including local governments, helped finance the medical school’s construction. Scholarship donors raised more than $6.8 million to provide full four-year scholarships for the class of 2013, making UCF the first medical school in U.S. history to provide full scholarships to an entire class.

On Friday, 36 members of that class will receive their medical degrees. Several of the original students are currently on leaves of absence, one student left the program and two will graduate in 2014.  The traditional commencement ceremony will include graduates taking of the Hippocratic Oath, the medical profession’s official pledge, in which they promise to “consecrate my life to the service of humanity” and that “the health of my patient will be my first consideration.”

Approved by the Legislature in 2006, the UCF College of Medicine was established to be an economic driver for Central Florida and to help address a statewide and nationwide physician shortage. The college established a vision of being the nation’s premier 21st century college of medicine and created a curriculum that included new technologies and learning innovations to teach medicine in a way never taught before. Students at the college seldom study from actual textbooks. Their classroom material is provided on iPads, the first of which were donated by Orlando philanthropist Alan Ginsburg. The library is 98 percent digital, meaning students can access materials 24/7 from any location and using any electronic device.

The new medical education building features high-tech equipment being used for the first time anywhere in the world and provides ongoing testing technology to ensure students are learning required tasks. UCF students begin learning clinical skills from the first week of medical school, thanks to computerized patients, a Clinical Skills and Simulation Center, and actors who pretend to have a variety of diseases. Students also work in the offices of local physicians from their first year of medical school, where they take patient histories and do preliminary exams under the preceptor’s supervision. The college currently has more than 2,000 volunteer and affiliated faculty members, area physicians who train, mentor and participate in research with students.

The innovative training has had an impact. The class of 2013 was above the national average with respect to the percentage who passed their Step 1 board exams on their first attempt.  Similarly, they were above the national average with respect to the percentage who passed Step 2 board scores. The class’s average score of 245 was nine points above the national average and 100 percent of the charter class passed the national clinical skills exam, which is also above the national average. In March, the students learned they had matched at some of the nation’s top hospitals, from Orlando to Seattle, for their residency training.

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