Dreaming for the Future – at Lake Nona Medical City, Orlando, Florida

University of Central Florida Medical School -“a hug” (View on Flickr.com)

Where I went, built circa 1967 (the medical school is the building without the windows – no hug)

original Wayne State University Medical School, photographed 2012 – not so loving to people or the environment (View on Flickr.com)

I went to the second youngest (at the time) medical school in the United States, which was about 25 years old when I attended it. Like most medical schools designed during its era, it was essentially a tomb, with no windows (and few women students). It had modern touches for its time, including multi-disciplinary labs, and also a colleagial atmosphere that promoted learning. A visit to Wayne State University Medical School’s original building in 2012 shows the same theme – note the billowing smoke, that’s still apparently happening.

Both schools have since updated their physical plants with additions or new attached buildings. 

Yesterday, though, we (myself, and @kptotalhealth team) got to visit a brand new medical school, in the groundbreakingly named Medical City in Lake Nona ( @learnlakenona and @ourmedschool). It’s so new that it’s still just a twinkle in the eye of Google maps, and it graduated its first class this year. 121 students are about to begin their medical training, next week.

I met the Dean of the University of Central Florida Medical School, Deborah C. German, MD, when we dialogued about social media at the AAMC Council of Deans meeting earlier this year (see: Dialogue about #hcsm at the 2013 #AAMCJtMtg – Academic Medicine and Social Media | Ted Eytan, MD), when she invited us to take a look, and so we did. 

As it says in her Dean’s welcome, she believes that every person comes to medicine with a dream for the future, which is reflected in the design and operation of the school. There’s a built in “Focused Inquiry and Research Experience” in the curriculum that allows a student to pursue a passion in anything in health, from policy, to disparities. There’s integration of learning approaches, including simulation, and the caring for a “virtual family” that a student will begin following at birth through death at age 98 at the end of the student experience.

Emphasis on “life giving”

As Deborah describes, and many physicians can relate to, the first year of medical school is both an uplifting and a dark experience. Uplifting because of the newness and excitement of starting in the profession, and assimilating with a group of dedicated faculty and students, dark because of the confrontation with death that happens so early in anatomy lab.

At UCF, the anatomy lab is on the top floor, not in the basement, and is bathed in natural light. That actually goes for many of the learning spaces – the school is designed “as a hug,” she says, around a central piazza, with work spaces lined up against the windows of the LEED Silver building.

In the anatomy lab, the students are tasked learn about the life and death of the person who has donated their body to their learning. This includes a full body CT scan, as well as the tools and support to understand cause of death. I can say that my anatomy experience did not include any structured exploration into who the person was who gave us such a precious gift. It was a lost opportunity. 

I took several photographs below; even though there were no cadavers in the lab, I didn’t take any photographs there. Respect.

Our guides (whose profiles are on the senior administration page on the UCF web site)  included Deborah German, MD, Ralph Caruana, MD, Charles “Chip” Roberts, Jr., and Jeanette Schreiber, JD MSW, as well as Juan C. Cendán, MD  the Assistant Dean for Simulation (in the photos below, Jeanette isn’t reading her email, she’s checking out a new type of augmented reality).

The student lecture hall is atypical in that it doesn’t have fixed chairs – they are freely movable and designed to face each other to facilitate group learning. The library is 98% digital – only 802 books are present. I really liked what I saw here, which I also saw at Wayne State, which is the display of art produced by students and faculty. This is a nice trend to see in medical schools – acknowledging of all of a person who pursues the healing profession.

The “city”

The Medical City is located in Orlando, Florida, right by the Orlando International Airport, in a State which is the simulation capital of the United States. This makes it convenient to everything, and with convenience to a living community and several big-name medical institutions that are either up and running or about to be built. As you can see from the photographs, this isn’t a small undertaking. The Lake Nona website describes everything else that’s going in around the city.

It’s really great to see so much innovation happening in undergraduate medical education today, which lots of possibilities for education for adult learners in the medical and all health professions.

A new generation, of everyone: patients, physicians, medical leaders

As much as we talk about how patients are changing, we should also recognize that physicians are changing too, as are the leaders of the medical profession.

I remember a time when someone with ideas like mine about changing the profession would never get an audience in front of an actual medical school dean, much less via someone from my generation of physicians.

Now there are a generation of deans that someone like myself can have a dialogue with (like Steve Klasko, MD – “Do Medical School Deans see social media in the future of medicine? I asked Dean Stephen Klasko of @usfhealth if he does. | Ted Eytan, MD“) , because they are accessible, open, interested in the “pursuing dreams” part of medicine. This is really connected to enabling the people we serve to pursue their dreams through optimal health, which is why we are all here.

Thanks Deborah, and the UCF team for hosting us and being part of the total health revolution, in the decade of the patient!

Ted Eytan, MD