Dean's Message, April 2021

Apr 23, 2021

As we bring this academic year to a close, I just want to thank each of you for your heroic efforts during an extraordinary year of lockdowns, quarantines, and national turbulence. We are starting this month to attend graduation dinners at our regional campuses for the M.D. Class of 2021, a first indication that things are starting to return to normal. And on May 16, we will celebrate the class’s graduation in the Tucker Center – socially distanced, but together.

   Let’s take a look at this past year from the eyes of our students:

  • M.D. and PA Classes of 2020 – March 2020 brought cessation of in-person clerkships for all students and created challenges for faculty and staff to identify and create alternative experiences to ensure students could complete their requirements and graduate on time. Intense didactic periods allowed students to return to the hospitals and offices in July and catch up on the time lost. Both of these classes graduated on time – in virtual ceremonies.
  • M.D. Class of 2021 – had multiple challenges with delayed Step II, virtual interviews, and restrictions on external rotations, but still had a great Match Day last month (virtual) and made us proud.
  • PA Class of 2021 – had their curriculum moved to a virtual platform and had to suspend their skills training until summer. Despite that, they were able to progress to the clinical year in January and are on track to graduate in December.
  • MD Class of 2022 – COVID affected them as they were completing their second year and preparing for United States Medical Licensing Exam Step I. Testing centers were closed for months, causing significant delay in scheduling and completing the required exam. Pre-clerkship bootcamp became virtual and many of the skills sessions were moved to the regional campuses for completion. We missed the opportunity to celebrate with them in their move to the regional campuses.
  • M.D. Class of 2023 – COVID struck as this class was finishing their first year of study and resulted in the cancelation of Summer Clinical Practicum (SCP) with the course objectives moved to the second-year clinical skills course. Lecturing, clinical skills and small-group sessions were moved online for both first-year M.D. and PA students. Second year continued by Zoom and the M.D. class moved into Step 1 study with little face-to-face experience for the whole year. The College of Medicine was quiet and sad!
  • M.D. Class of 2024, along with the current Bridge class and the PA Class of 2022 – experienced our first-ever (hopefully last) virtual orientation with laptops being distributed via “drive by” and all classes by Zoom. We flipped the M.D. curriculum and delayed clinical skills and anatomy until the fall to allow more time to prepare for social distancing during those experiences. The M.D. and PA classes returned to the Clinical Learning Center and anatomy lab with an amazing performance by our faculty to get the courses for both groups completed –  back-to-back – in a shorter block, and on time. It was great to see the smiling faces in August as M.D. and PA students finally got to see each other in person.
  • M.D. Class of 2024 – will have their final exam on Thursday and will have SCP this year. Our Bridge students will present their research projects virtually again this year, and we look forward to cheering them on.
  • Meanwhile, our Ph.D. graduate students returned to their labs shortly after the lockdown, using personal-protective equipment and social distancing, and attended seminars and classes by Zoom. Our research faculty exceeded the previous year’s grant funding in spite of the pandemic!
  • Each of our residency programs also were on the front lines of the pandemic and provided incredible care to their communities. Our Winter Haven family medicine program even welcomed its first class in the middle of this pandemic.
  • Our clinical programs at FSU PrimaryHealth, SeniorHealth, BehavioralHealth and in Immokalee continued to care for their patients without a break and provided leadership for COVID testing and immunizations.  


   It is said that you can never say thank you enough or give praise enough for great work. To our staff and faculty, thank you for going above and beyond to keep us on track and our students on schedule to meet their requirements. Great ideas and innovations, incredible flexibility and resilience, and hard work all showed in keeping this amazing program going. Evaluations from students at all levels have been highly complimentary of all the things you’ve done to make this happen. Many noted how much they felt “cared for” compared to peers at other programs.

   To our students, we wish we could have been together all this year in the close community that we treasure here. We know that you wanted to be with your classmates, your teachers and your staff. But you were amazing leaders this year in bringing forward your concerns and helping us adjust our curriculum to address national problems of racism, police violence, and civil unrest. You helped us get ready for a very successful LCME visit and invited national speakers from incredibly diverse communities and specialties to bring information and dialogue for many difficult issues. While Zoom was our only option, it did allow you to identify and schedule speakers from across the country who we may otherwise have never heard. You served your communities through clothing and food drives, COVID testing, mask making and distribution, and immunization clinics. Many of you served on the front lines in clinical settings caring for COVID-positive patients and families.   

On a personal note, thank you all for helping us get through this very challenging year. As we move toward our transitions this summer, I would like to invite everyone who can make it to the central campus to an ice cream event in the Atrium on Thursday from 11-1. While we will not be “scooping,” we will have an ice cream treat for each of you. 

With great admiration and appreciation,


J. Fogarty, M.D.