A New Industry Partnership, Exemplary Teachers, and M.D.+ Students Highlighted at September MAAC Meeting
"A tidal wave of activity to attract the best class and support our students in developing a career in a path they want to pursue," is how Dean J. Larry Jameson, M.D., Ph.D., described recent months at the Perelman School. Speaking to members and guests of the Medical Alumni Advisory Council, the dean also summarized recent faculty and fundraising achievements and plans to carry the School's momentum forward.
Senior Vice Dean Gail Morrison, M'71, FEL'76, described this year's recruitment process, and both Dean Jameson and Dr. Morrison thanked council members for leading the generous alumni giving that has greatly increased the School's funding for financial aid. Finally, outgoing MAAC chair Lou Matis, M'75, and new chair Lou Kozloff, C'65, M'69, led a conversation on ways alumni can support and guide students throughout their medical school experience.
The new Novartis alliance and its potential to change the cancer care industry were highlighted by the dean. The partnership will scale up the clinical research of Carl June, M.D., and team on innovative "serial killer" CAR technologies and accelerate applications to many additional cancer diseases.
"We are poised to make a significant clinical impact in many areas," said Dean Jameson. "Across the board we are looking for ways to be more entrepreneurial - that's one focus of our emerging strategic plan."
Dynamic new leaders at the School include Frances Jensen, M.D., an NIH pioneer award winner who now chairs the Dept. of Neurology. Recent Distinguished Graduate Award winner and groundbreaking behavioral economist David Asch, GM'87, WG'89, HOM'96, is the inaugural executive director of the Penn Medicine Center for Innovation. And alumnus and leading radiology researcher Mitchell D. Schnall, C'82, GR'86, M'86, HOM'02, will chair the Department of Radiology, in October, joining what Dean Jameson termed the "best group of chairs in the country."
In addition to leading scientists, students learn from the many exemplary physicians at the School. According to Dr. Jameson, the strategic plan will address cultivating and developing the career path for Master Clinicians so that they play "an enduring role in modeling the profession and shaping our students and trainees."
With stellar academic achievements, wide-ranging interests, and a genuine desire to make a difference through medicine, Perelman School students are among the most highly sought in medicine. Many choose Penn because they want "more than an M.D." as Dr. Morrison expressed it. Last May, 52% of Perelman School students graduated with an M.D. degree plus a Ph.D., master's degree, or certificate. Nationally, only 8% of M.D.s graduating last year had a second credential.
To recruit outstanding students, the School awarded $12.7M in financial aid this year, a dramatic climb from about $5M in 2006, the year before the start of the Making History Campaign. Support from alumni of all ages, many legacy gifts, the continued generosity of Walter and Anne Gamble, and the Perelman naming gift have all contributed to this significant increase.
But with average medical student debt still around $177,000 at private institutions, and competition from peer institutions with similar or greater recruitment resources, support for financial aid is still greatly needed, and will remain a fundraising priority.
The dean expressed optimism about future development efforts, "When experienced philanthropists like Walter, M'57, and Anne Gamble and Ray Perelman, and younger new donors like John and Mindy Gray choose Penn Medicine, I believe that adds another level of confidence in our institution from a fundraising perspective."
Students look to alumni for more than financial support. They welcome the opportunity to talk to experienced doctors about a specialty, profession, geographic area, or life decision they are considering. MAAC members discussed ways to enhance connections between alumni and current students, including supporting the White Coat ceremony and other key events, and an online mentoring database that Alumni Development and Alumni Relations plans to launch early next year.
At the meeting's end Dr. Kozloff thanked Dr. Matis on behalf of the School for his years of service. "It has been a thrill," said Dr. Matis. "Meeting people at the medical school and my fellow alumni - I've gotten more out of it than I could ever give."
From Song and Dance to Subspecialties to Sports
Fourth-year Sarah Johnson has an Inside View of the Perelman School's Student Groups
Sarah Johnson left a successful career on Wall Street to go into the family business - medicine. She chose the Perelman School because she wanted to be part of a tight-knit and friendly community while exploring her career path in medicine.
At Penn Medicine non-traditional students like Ms. Johnson are becoming the new tradition. The wide range of experience and interests students bring to the School has given rise to a rich field of more than 100 student groups.
Run by students, these organizations, "nurture our strengths and interests outside the classroom, and support the development of well-rounded doctors," said Ms. Johnson.
The School agrees - and gives donors the opportunity to help fund these student groups and activities.
Elected Medical Student Government Treasurer for a four-year term, Ms. Johnson is responsible for managing the class funds that support student groups. From Funnybones, a group that entertains children at CHOP, to the Family Medicine Interest Group to Penn Med Rock Climbing, the activities and influence of these groups would all be bolstered by external funding.
Ms. Johnson's own involvement includes service as past co-president of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), the national student-run organization focused on the recruitment and mentorship of minority medical students and health care consumers.
During her tenure, SNMA founded "Cut Hypertension", a community outreach initiative where Penn Medicine students go out to barbershops in the West Philadelphia community monthly to screen patrons for hypertension.
As a member of the Penn Chapter of AcademyHealth, a professional organization that supports results-based research of health care access and cost, Ms. Johnson applied her economics background to health care issues and solutions. This led to her participation in a Leonard Davis Institute project that studied the necessities people forgo to pay for their health care.
"Student groups taught me to work with my cohort and School administrators," said Ms. Johnson. "They give students early exposure to people in the communities we will ultimately care for as clerkship students and physicians. I know my involvement with these groups has helped me become a better doctor, and a better person."
If you are interested in helping fund a group, please contact David Edwards, Director of Major Gifts, at 215-898-1034.
'Tis the Season for Fourth-year Students to Apply to Residency Programs
From now through early 2013, fourth-year Perelman School students will eagerly and anxiously interview for the next crucial step in their medical careers - a residency match. If recent trends hold, many students will stay in the Philadelphia area. The interview process, however, will take them up and down both coasts and throughout the United States.
Ron Golan is a returning year-out student who spent his time away from Penn on a research grant in Israel. He followed that up with an away-rotation at Weill Cornell to "to both learn urology and broaden my perspective on residency programs by comparing and contrasting my home program with another." Since his return, he applied to well more than the average 12-15 institutions because urology programs are comparatively small.
The number of applications that students submit varies based on several factors including the popularity of the specialty, the size of the program, how competitive an applicant believes s/he is, geographical considerations, and even the cost of applications. Plastic surgery, radiation/oncology, and dermatology are among the most competitive specialties.
Eli Kupperman developed a strong interest in a fourth very competitive field - orthopaedic surgery - during his first clerkship in the specialty. He "liked the intensity, precision, and intricacy" required, and he plans to apply to several residency programs throughout the country.
Jon and Martha Kole, who met during their first week at the Perelman School, are fourth-year students trying to match again, this time as residents at the same hospital, Martha in obstetrics and Jon in primary care/psychiatry. They are among the six Perelman School pairs applying as couples, which allows their applications to be treated as one unit. At least three more individuals here are trying to match with their partners at other schools.
Sam Merck and David Okada also met at the Perelman School, and got engaged last summer. They are applying in internal medicine, which is, along with emergency medicine, one of the two most popular specialties among Perelman students this year. Sam said that she and David know that they will get great training wherever they go, but are seeking the best overall fit. "At Penn Preview, I felt so comfortable," Sam said. "It felt like the right community, so coming here was a non-decision. I hope for the same kind of feeling when it comes to matching."
The Penn Medicine HOST (Host Our Students as they Travel) Program will soon begin matching alumni across the country with fourth-years traveling to their residency interviews. Besides providing relief from some travel costs, HOST lets alumni and students get acquainted and gives alumni the chance to share some of what they've learned about their region, their specialty, and the process of becoming a physician.
Volunteering to participate in our HOST program is a great way to help our fourth-year students and give back to Penn Medicine.
If you'd like to learn more or to volunteer for the 2012-2013 HOST Program, contact Page Pepper, Director of Alumni Outreach and Reunions, at 215-898-9190.
Watch Head Games Online
New Film Spotlights Concussion Crisis in Sport, Features Many Penn Voices
"How much of you are you willing to lose for a game?" asks the trailer for Head Games, the new documentary from Steve James, the director of Hoop Dreams. Head Games opened September 20 at the Boston Film Festival. Inspired by the book by Chris Nowinski, former Ivy League football player and World Wrestling Entertainment wrestler, the film explores the concussion crisis in American sports among both professional athletes and school age participants.
A sneak peek at Penn on June 7 drew more than 200 including Penn Medicine and Penn Athletics faculty as well as athletes, advocates, patients, and their families. The family of Owen Thomas, the captain of the Penn football team who committed suicide in 2010, attended as well as told their story in the film.
Head Games arrived in theaters and On Demand on September 21. Click here to find out how you can watch Head Games today.