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Jazz Brunch to Support Medical Education

11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6 – The Ringling

I’m happy to see so many friends and alumni here as we recognize our College of Medicine and its Sarasota campus. Thank you, Renee Hamad, our chair for this anniversary celebration, Steven High, and everyone who helped to make this a special event.

I also want to acknowledge a special friend, Pat Johnson, whose husband — the late Sen. Bob Johnson — was a good friend of Florida State University.

We’ve suffered a tremendous loss with his passing, but his accomplishments and contributions continue to make a mark.

In his decade and a half in the Florida Legislature, Bob was instrumental in securing state support for Sarasota’s arts and cultural institutions, including the Ringling Museum.

He was a tireless supporter of FSU in many ways, including his distinguished work on the Ringling Museum Board. He shepherded important gifts establishing the very influential Mote Eminent Scholars and Mote Symposia.

He also believed in the Sarasota Regional Campus of our College of Medicine. Just this past August, Bob hosted a reception for some key community leaders, several of whom are here today, to make them aware and gain their support of the Sarasota campus and this anniversary celebration.

I’d like to commend Dean Fogarty for providing incredible leadership to the College of Medicine and Dean Berg for directing the clinical education program for our medical students here at the Sarasota campus.

And, of course, we need to recognize the achievements of our faculty and our students, and the support of our alumni and the communities that are home to our six regional campuses and our rural and clinical training sites. We can all be proud of this College’s many accomplishments in its short 15-year history.

I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone here that the medical school holds a very special place in my heart. As a state representative and then Speaker of the House back in the 1990s, I strongly believed in the need for more physicians to serve the people of Florida.

And I believed in Florida State University’s unique ability to provide the kind of exemplary education and patient-centered training that the physicians of today and tomorrow would need.

That’s why President Sandy D’Alemberte and I, along with several of my colleagues in the Florida Legislature, fought so hard for the school.

Our College of Medicine was never intended to be just another medical school. It was designed to be an innovative, community-based model that would produce excellent physicians especially through service to elder, rural, minority and underserved populations.

After the Legislature created it in 2000, the College of Medicine enrolled its charter class of 30 students the following year. At the time, it was the first new medical school to open in the United States in 25 years.

In many ways, we were pioneers. That’s why it is especially gratifying to see how far we’ve come and how successful we’ve been these past 15 years.

We graduated our first class of 27 students in 2005, and in 2008 they began finishing their residencies and became our first practicing physicians. That was just seven years ago. Now consider:

We have 202 new alumni physicians practicing in Florida.

127 of those are providing primary care, which is the cornerstone of our mission.

17 percent of our alumni practicing in Florida are in a rural area — nearly triple the national average. This is another key component of our mission.

We also have a diverse medical student body, including older and nontraditional students. This diversity provides a rich educational environment and produces doctors who are more likely to be interested in working in underserved areas.

Thanks in part to the college’s successful outreach programs, it has achieved a ranking above the 90th percentile nationally each of the past four years in the percentage of black graduates.

I’m also proud that Hispanic Business magazine named our medical school among the nation’s Top 10. Our community is enriched by the contributions of our Hispanic students, faculty, staff and alumni, and it’s great to be recognized for our diversity.

Most gratifying of all, many of our alumni are returning to this area to practice medicine. I am confident that these doctors are providing this community — perhaps even your own friends or family members — with high-quality, compassionate care.

One of the things I enjoy most about these events is meeting some of our current medical students. These inspiring men and women are going to be your future physicians, and we appreciate all of you for being here to support them.

Thank you.