August 17, 2016

Welcoming the next generation of physicians

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Summer is one of my favorite times to be dean of the medical school. There always seems to be a sense of excitement, hope and promise in the air as the faculty and staff welcomes hundreds of new medical students, budding scientists and capable residents to our institution.

I had the honor this weekend to welcome the SOM Class of 2020 at the annual White Coat Ceremony and was able to see the pride and joy on the faces of our students, their families and loved ones. Beginning medical school is a significant achievement to celebrate with peers and loved ones.

Medical school is also a formative time in life—the time when they will truly learn the honor and responsibility that come with being a physician. Dr. Kevin Leon, associate dean for Undergraduate Medical Education, touched on this during his keynote address at Sunday’s ceremony, when he talked about the many ways medical school will change students and how much they will learn about themselves, calling medical school “a journey of self-discovery.” He also spoke to the profound impression made on him by a 13-year-old leukemia patient named Michael whom he spent time with while doing his pediatric rotation during his third-year of medical school. The boy eventually succumbed to the disease, but Dr. Leon said he still credits that time spent with Michael for teaching him more about inner strength and courage, and “what it truly means to dedicate yourself to others,” than any textbook could convey.

The summer months also mean that new doctors from across the country, as well as international physicians, come to UAB to continue their medical education in one of the nation’s top academic medical centers. This year, there are 206 new physicians joining our institution at sites in Birmingham, Huntsville, Montgomery and Selma. Residency training has a tremendous impact on the way students develop as physicians, and I am confident that each of the residents training in our 33 programs will receive the training they need to be the competent, compassionate physicians to treat the patients of Alabama and the Southeast.

To all the new students and residents who have joined our ranks this summer: On behalf of all the faculty and staff, I want to wish you all a hearty welcome to UAB, and wish you the best as you begin or continue your medical training with us.