Monday marked the first day of class for students in Nova Southeastern University's new medical doctorate, or M.D., program. It's the first such program in all of Broward County.
At the main campus in Davie, the hallways were filled with students wearing new white coats. The class of 53 has been divided into two smaller groups, called learning communities. These groups that will study together and share a mentoring physician.
The smaller community system is used predominantly in undergraduate programs, not in medical schools.
Instead of the average M.D. system, with two years of academic focus and two years of medical internships, called clerkships, NSU's M.D. program will consist of one and a half years of academic lectures and two and a half years of clerkships for students.
Dr. Suzanne Templer, one of the mentoring physicians for the learning communities, said she wishes she had a smaller, mentorship system like NSU's when she was in medical school.
"I never felt like I really had someone I could go to, to ask advice about future career paths or anything like that," she said. "So I'm really excited to be the person who they can go to, who they can trust and ... help them along their way."
This isn't Nova Southeastern University's first medical school. The university has had a D.O. program for decades, training 38 classes of Osteopathic physicians. D.O. programs tend to focus more on treating patients as a whole, while M.D. programs are more research-based and target the diagnosis of specific symptoms.
Piero Carletti came to the U.S. from Venezuela to pursue an M.D.
"I was looking for some non-traditional, cutting edge type of education, so I decided to embark on this journey in the U.S.," Carletti said. "I love that we have so much time to work on our own projects and on our own research."
The average class size in the new program is seven to eight students. Instead of the traditional lectures seen in most medical schools, groups will focus on case studies.
"I think it's a more targeted system, because we have community mentors," said Dr. Johannes Vieweg, the founding dean of the Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Allopathic Medicine, the new medical school. "We call this 'active learning.' I think by having smaller class sizes and executing a more active learning curriculum, students retain better, the information."
The college gained its preliminary accreditation in October last year, from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education.
Vieweg said he thinks having an M.D. program in Broward County will help tackle the threat of physician shortages in South Florida.
"With an aging population...and also with physicians currently retiring, we have two big threats that impact the health of our community," Vieweg said. "After two years of planning [and] hard labor, I think we finally succeeded to get our first class of students on board."
The program joins 150 other M.D. programs in the U.S., and becomes the eighth in Florida.
Final accreditation for the program comes when the first class of 53 M.D. students graduates in 2022.