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Bursting at the seams

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Aug. 20, 2018

Back-to-school season is a busy time for all. Despite hosting classes, summer research, a mini-med-school camp, clinical experiences and more throughout the summer months, the College of Medicine is no exception.

The college is bracing for a whirlwind of students to return to campus this week. A building that once accommodated barely more than 100 students in the years following its opening in 2004 is now bursting at the seams as the med school’s programs, new and old, continue to thrive.

“This is an exciting time for the College of Medicine,” Dean John P. Fogarty said. “Medical students, PA students and new faculty and staff are all bringing a new energy to our hallways.”

Among the nearly 330 students who will flood the halls this fall are 50 new PA students. The group will be officially welcomed as the School of Physician Assistant Practice’s Class of 2020 at the start of orientation Tuesday.

The group was selected from an applicant pool of nearly 1,800 PA hopefuls. They join the inaugural class of 40 students, who will continue the didactic portion of the curriculum before beginning clinical rotations at the regional campuses in January.

With their first semester of med school in the books, the 120 members of the M.D. Class of 2022 return in their new white coats. They’ll reconvene with the second-year med students, many of whom served as teaching assistants for the first-year class and participated in summer research fellowships and summer clinical practicums over the past few months.

The college also houses one of FSU’s newest academic programs.

The Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences bachelor’s degree program prepares for an influx of 309 new students during the 2018-19 academic year, boosting the program’s total enrollment to nearly 950.

The IMS program provides a pathway into health-care careers and was the first of its kind in August 2016 when it welcomed its first 150 students, five of whom graduated in May.

The bustle isn’t confined to the classrooms, anatomy lab, learning communities and clinical learning center frequented by students. The research arm of the med school continues its steady growth, contributing to the $226 million in research dollars awarded to FSU faculty in the 2018 fiscal year.

“The growth in research impact and increase in federal grant funding underscores the need for more lab and office space for new faculty and staff,” said Jeffrey Joyce, senior associate dean for research and graduate programs. For example, the college recently hired “world class” behavioral health researcher Sylvie Naar, who will lead the new Center for Translational Behavioral Research.

The nature of Naar’s work, which includes active national and international grants totaling more than $17 million, involves bringing in additional researchers in related subject areas.

“We didn’t have room here at our main campus, so the center – and her office and lab – will be at Innovation Park, more than three miles from the medical school,” Joyce said.

During FSU’s new-faculty orientation this week, 16 faculty from the College of Medicine will be introduced. Seven of them are part of the expansion in research, and two are new residency program directors.

While the college expands within the walls of the John Thrasher Building, three miles southwest, site preparation has begun on the College of Medicine’s new primary-care clinic.

The 10,000-square-foot health center, FSU PrimaryHealth, is being constructed at Roberts Avenue and Eisenhower Street in southwest Tallahassee. It will provide a range of primary-care services not currently available in that corner of Leon County and is expected to open in 2019.

The pace of activity at the main campus only tells part of the story.

“We’ve added new residency programs in Sarasota and Winter Haven, and recently hired three new residency program directors. In addition, we’ve selected a new campus dean for Sarasota whom we’ll announce this week,” Fogarty said. “We’ve relocated our Pensacola campus and are identifying a new location for our Sarasota campus. We now have more than 600 alumni physicians in practice – realizing the mission-focused goal this medical school was created for.

“With all that’s going on, our collective focus remains the application for reaccreditation, involving faculty, staff and students in a painstaking process. Our LCME site visit takes place in the spring.

“It’ll be here in the blink of an eye.”