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New medical program looks toward the future

Students enrolled in the USF School of Medicine’s newest training program must commit to moving to a different state and learning multiple medical disciplines, in addition to making their grades.

Beginning in the fall, the Scholarly Excellence, Leadership Experiences, Collaborative Training program (SELECT) will help medical students navigate the abundance of modern knowledge and resources available to them.

This is a concept program leader Alan Otsuki said is “innovative” and will produce a better outcome for patients.

“The complexity is due to the amount of knowledge that is now available for physicians and health care providers,” he said. “That knowledge has grown exponentially over the last 10 to 20 years. There are limits to the human mastery of knowledge. We have to figure out what the key elements are that students need to know.”

Otsuki, founding associate dean of educational affairs of the USF College of Medicine at the Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) campus, said students admitted into the program will spend two years at the Tampa campus completing normal medical school course work.

They will then study another two years at LVHN, in Allentown, Pa., specializing in clinical education.

Upon admission into the program, Otsuki, who will also serve as the chief of the Division of Education at LVHN, said students must agree “from day one” that they will complete the trip.

Alicia Monroe, vice dean of educational affairs at the USF College of Medicine, said a student can’t return to the SELECT program if they drop out and must apply to another medical school.

Monroe, who will help students in their third or fourth years of the program, said the focus will be teaching students to work as a team.

“In their third year, students will engage in group discussion, clinical problem solving and will participate in a variety of projects,” Monroe said. “Some projects will involve patients, and some will involve families. They will actually solve clinical issues.

“They will not only learn clinical medicine, but they will learn pediatrics, OBGYN, surgery and other medical disciplines and will refine and apply their clinical skills.”

She said students will also learn to work together, which is often overlooked in the country’s health care system. This problem can be traced back to the way students are trained. She said students learn to work independently in college, yet are forced to work with professionals from other disciplines once they graduate.

“The SELECT program will combat this problem by providing multiple opportunities for medical students to learn with and from other health professionals, as well as opportunities to care for patients and to complete quality and safety projects as members of inter-professional teams,” Monroe said in an e-mail.

“We are focusing on integrating content in a way to better prepare graduates to be professional, to work effectively in systems and teams and to manage a complex environment that requires dealing with a lot of ambiguity,” she said.

Otsuki, who will travel between the two institutions, said the program’s structure also fosters collaboration.

“It’s sort of two different cultures that have to work together and transform into a productive and innovative entity,” he said. “It is part of the expectation to work closely with two groups, and that entails getting to know both groups and talking to people. It can’t be done by e-mail or phone. It has to be done in person.”

Monroe said the program has admitted 24 students, which is the limit for its first year.

To ensure “adequate faculty and teaching space, and all of the resources needed to provide an outstanding learning experience for the students,” she said the program will keep enrollment numbers low in the future, admitting 48 students in its second year and 56 in its third.

Otsuki said LVHN has donated $2 million to USF to help fund the program, among other investments, and he’s confident the program will be effective in improving health care.

“The leadership and the faculty at USF has been through a lot of planning and footwork thus far, and the faculty at (LVHN) have put in a huge amount of effort,” he said. “We all feel that it is going to work, and we are going to work very hard to make sure it does.”