UCF College of Medicine residents create internal medicine program to ease physician shortage in Central Florida
As a student, Ayden Cooper helped create UCF’s new College of Medicine. On Match Day 2014, she learned she’ll help create the school’s first residency program, designed to bring more primary care physicians to Central Florida.
Sixteen medical school graduates who comprise its charter class of internal medicine residents will begin the new residency program in July, in partnership with the Orlando VA Medical Center and Osceola Regional Medical Center.
“I feel incredibly honored to be a part of this,” said Cooper. “I was fortunate enough to be in the College of Medicine’s second class and am now so excited to be part of its new internal medicine residency program. I love building things.”
The new residents were chosen from 2,546 total applicants and after 187 interviews.
“As we were selecting residents, we asked ourselves, ‘Who would you love to work with every day?’ and ‘Who would you want to care for your family? They’re pioneers,” said Abdo Asmar, MD, associate director of UCF’s new residency program and a former chief resident at Chicago’s Cook County Hospital, one of the nation’s largest. “They want to establish a foundation of graduate medical education and build something together with us.”
Born in the United States to an American father and Vietnamese mother, Cooper followed a nontraditional journey to medical school. She studied traditional Chinese medicine techniques like acupuncture and herbs in Vietnam and received a master’s degree – she holds two – from Georgetown University in integrated medicine. She worked for NASA, identifying whether healthy antioxidants in vegetables change in outer space. With a black belt in karate, her diverse experiences and world travels, she learned versatility and adaptability “so I can cater to my patients’ needs and be culturally sensitive in how I can help them,” she explained.
Almatmed “Mo” Abdelsalam, another resident with UCF ties who will help build the new program, received his master’s degree in molecular biology from UCF’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences after completing medical school. He’s working in the laboratory of Saleh Naser, MD, who is researching better treatments for Crohn’s disease.
The nation’s top residency programs provide medical school graduates with a diverse population of patients. UCF’s partnership program will offer residents the opportunity to care for those, including military veterans and residents of Osceola County, one of Florida’s fastest-growing and most diverse communities. Osceola has one of the state’s most rapidly sprawling Hispanic populations; roughly one in three new residents speaks Spanish as a second language.
The Orlando VA Medical Center is among the busiest VA facilities nationwide, providing healthcare services to more than 100,000 Central Florida veterans. When it opens, the new Orlando VA Medical Center at Medical City will offer top-grade inpatient acute care for veterans. It’s been designated an emerging center of innovation and will emphasize a Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) approach through interdisciplinary teams of healthcare professionals. That approach includes mental health services as part of all primary care offerings.
Osceola Regional is undergoing several expansions and offers specialty programs such as its Central Florida Cardiac and Vascular Institute and Orthopedic and Spine Center. The center offers robotic surgery and continuity clinics that help patients acclimate to life and care when they leave the hospital.
“The UCF College of Medicine and our partners are delighted with our first residency match,” said Deborah German, MD, vice president for medical affairs and founding dean of the UCF College of Medicine. “We’re looking forward to expanding the training and numbers of physicians who will practice in Central Florida.”
UCF’s new program is accredited for up to 20 residents a year, for a total of 60, and will increase as the program grows.