Charting the Future
The College of Medicine kicked off the year by welcoming Colleen Koch, M.D., M.S., M.B.A., who began her role as the college’s 10th dean on Jan. 11 and immediately launched an all-inclusive strategic planning initiative. As a result, 2021 winds down with a roadmap in place to help guide the college through the next five years and with the power to transform medicine not just for our community, but well beyond it.
The strategic planning process employed a new method to shape the college’s future. From learners, residents and faulty to human resources staff; from clinicians to systems analysts; and from IT experts to AAPs, the entire college community helped define and refine the goals and what we need to do to achieve them.
The college community’s collective work from the last year has paved the way for the College of Medicine to become one of the nation’s preeminent medical schools. Under the strategic plan, supported by the seven pillars, UF can become the place of first resort for leading-edge medical research, transformative educational methods and world-renowned patient care.
Clinical Care: Moving Medicine Forward
A team of University of Florida Health neurosurgeons and neurologists became the first in the country to implant a technologically advanced deep brain simulation system into a patient to more precisely target motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, dystonia and essential tremor. The team performed the procedure in early June, just after it was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Education: In All Kinds of Weather
In true Gator fashion, University of Florida College of Medicine students showed up in force during the past year, demonstrating exceptional commitment to community service. Many supported the department of health and family medicine in its efforts to help protect Gainesville’s most underserved and medically vulnerable population through vaccination and COVID-19 testing outreach events; COM students formed the COVID-19 Service Corps; Jesse Caron co-founded the National Video Gratitude Project; and Olgert Bardhi, who helped launch the COVID-19 Service Corps, also started a syringe exchange program for North Central Florida.
Research: Leveraging data for better outcomes
Computers instructed by precise algorithms will unlock data now buried in electronic health records, report readings from sensors that monitor patients, and record real-time data from more traditional tools like thermometers and stethoscopes, organizing the data onto a dashboard for everyone on the care team to see. Technology won’t replace physicians, but it can help them deliver better care, and faculty from the University of Florida College of Medicine have launched a number of innovative research projects in the area of artificial intelligence to improve the health of adults and children throughout Florida and across the country.
“Not all physicians have the same training; not all hospitals have the same resources,” said Azra Bihorac, M.D., M.S., a professor of medicine, surgery and anesthesiology and senior associate dean for research. “We can give physicians from all backgrounds the same training and tools, and then it really doesn’t matter if you’re in a small community hospital. AI can level the playing field for patients, no matter where they are.”
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Combating Implicit Bias
A team of female physicians and scientists is leveraging personal experiences with underrepresentation in medicine to begin identifying a solution toward implicit bias in clinical research. Azra Bihorac, M.D., M.S., Crystal Johnson-Mann, M.D., and Della V. Mosley, Ph.D., received an inaugural grant from University of Florida Research, in conjunction with the UF Office of the Chief Diversity Officer, to advance and catalyze sustainable efforts toward racial justice, diversity, equity and inclusion.
Intuitively, clinical trials for new therapies in areas that disproportionately affect Black patients should include Black participants at a comparable proportion of enrollment. However, the data reflects otherwise. The three investigators intend to identify barriers to inclusive trial recruitment and participation at UF and develop a training intervention to reduce the impact of racial bias and discrimination among clinical researchers.
COVID-19: Delivering advanced care where it’s needed
A University of Florida Health pilot program brought COVID-19 monoclonal antibody therapy to rural communities in North Florida beginning in early 2021. The goal of the program is to ensure people living in rural communities have access to the latest COVID-19 therapies and important health information about COVID-19 therapeutics, testing and vaccines, said Duane Mitchell, M.D., Ph.D., who lead the collaborative effort. The pilot program gained private support from the Sarasota-based Louis and Gloria Flanzer Trust.