Let me start by saying that I believe medicine is the most noble, challenging and fulfilling of all professions. As a physician, the possibilities for how to use your gifts are as varied as they are wonderful. It doesn’t matter whether you want to be a primary care physician or a physician scientist; a neurosurgeon or a public health expert; a cancer specialist or a pediatric endocrinologist; an obstetrician or a psychiatrist, the University of Florida College of Medicine (UFCOM) will provide the education to get you there. Our educational program is nationally recognized and our graduates find their way into careers ranging from primary care in underserved communities, to academic medicine making the next great advance in cancer, to private practice in every specialty.
But regardless of the venue, at the heart of being a great physician is a deep and resilient desire to serve and care for others. This is our shared vision at the UFCOM and we want this vision to permeate the admissions process. When I speak to groups and ask what the members of the audience want from their physicians, I almost always get the same answers. People want their doctors to be smart and proficient in their chosen field: in short, they want to know they are getting the best care. But their expectations run far deeper. They want to know their physician cares for them and understands them; to that end they expect their doctor to listen to them and treat them with respect. They want to be sure the doctor is really looking out for them, not motivated by self-interest or monetary gain and that he/she is honest, trustworthy and diligent. To put it succinctly, they want a physician who practices according to the core professional values of integrity, compassion and excellence.
With these values in mind, we in the admissions office are committed to the goal of finding not just the smartest students, but the best human beings to carry the college and the profession forward. Moreover, as we succeed in attracting the right kind of student, we want the culture of the educational program to reinforce these values. While maintaining excellence nationally and offering the widest array of research, clinical and specialty opportunities, (both for patients and students) the leaders, faculty, staff and students in the college of medicine have created a family atmosphere as a way to encourage learning and facilitate the development of lifelong bonds between us. One way we describe this is by the phrase, “We take care of one another, so we can learn, discover and take care of our patients.” So you can be sure, that whatever the trajectory of your career in medicine, this idea of learning from, encouraging and challenging one another actually teaches a way of living that will prepare you for any specialty or setting. Add to that the best classroom, laboratory and bedside teachers anywhere, and you can see why we are so excited about our educational program and why our students love their school.
I suspect you will find our application to be a bit distinctive. Our process is designed to get young physicians thinking in the right categories before you ever start medical school. I hope and believe that wherever you end up in this profession, our application process will ultimately help you become a better doctor. Our essays in particular probe areas that are central to the life of a physician. For example, in order to be able to effectively engage in lifelong learning, one needs to have enough self-awareness to be able to identify areas of strength and weakness. To that end, we inquire about whether you see yourself as more extraverted or introverted and hence, what sorts of strengths and weakness go along with your personality. To emphasize the caring nature of the profession, we choose essays by UFCOM students describing their experiences with patients and ask you to consider the professional virtues behind their stories. Finally, since integrity is critical in all of life, especially for a physician, we ask you to think about the various domains of integrity and how they relate to one another as you live your life. If you struggle a bit with these questions, don’t feel bad. As a practicing physician for almost 30 years, I am still reflecting on them myself and still don’t think I have a sufficient grasp of what a profound privilege it is to be part of the medical profession. So do the best you can and realize that while we are learning physiology, anatomy, pathology, microbiology and all the other basic and clinical sciences of medicine, we will keep coming back to the kinds of questions you consider in our essays, namely, the art of medicine.
Our last and perhaps most important goal will be to show you our community of learners that is diverse in the largest sense of that word. Our students come from every demographic background imaginable, each with their own story and bringing something important to the community. If we get the chance to interview you, we will introduce you to a patient and describe how our curriculum is designed around patients. This contextualized learning starts with a patient, and uses patient problems as a lens to focus how we learn the basic and clinical sciences.
So whether you are in a small or large school, secular or religious school, in-state or out-of-state, from a physician family or the first to go to college, a traditional or non-traditional student, if you share our vision for this magnificent profession, I invite you into this very rigorous and competitive process. Our leadership from the very top down are committed to making these ideas a reality and continuing our upward move among the nation’s top medical schools. To do this, we need the brightest, most honorable, caring and service oriented students. In a society which seems increasingly motivated by self-interest and tranquilized by the trivial (as Kierkegaard put it), we need reminders such as the title of a recent book on leadership. It’s title simply reads; “It’s Not About You!” Ultimately as physicians, we do this not for ourselves, but for our patients.
James W. Lynch, MD
Professor of Medicine & Assistant Dean, COM Admissions