March 19, 2004

Gabbe communicates plans in state of medical school speech

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Steven G. Gabbe, M.D., talks with Matt Landman and Tim Lautz, both second-year medical students, before his inaugural State of the Medical School address last week. Photo by Dana Johnson

In his inaugural State of the Medical School address last week, Steven G. Gabbe, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine, invited students to lunch.

In an address that, as he put it, presented “a little bit of our history, some about our present, and a lot more about our future,” Gabbe made sure that his audience of medical students, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows knew that their opinions were vital to the ongoing project of shaping the future of the Vanderbilt School of Medicine; the dean said he will begin The Dean’s Table, a monthly informal luncheon with students to discuss issues of importance at the medical school.

There will be a lot of issues to discuss over the turkey sandwiches and potato chips.

“Things are changing here very rapidly, and we want our students to know what is happening, what will happen, and participate in this process,” Gabbe said.

The dean noted that from 1998 to 2003, the medical school’s faculty grew 31.7 percent, and listed several changes that have taken place at the Medical Center over the last year:

• Searches for chairs of Psychiatry and Cardiac Surgery, as well as the Gray Chair in Tissue Regeneration and the Christie Chair in Global Health

• The creation of new departments in Biostatistics, Hearing and Speech Sciences, Cardiac Surgery and Thoracic Surgery

• The announcement of building plans for Medical Research Building IV

• The addition of a doctorate degree in Audiology and master’s degrees in Medical Physics and Laboratory Sciences

• Plans to create an Office of Medical Education and a Learning Center

• The planning of a new Ph.D. degree in Genetics

Gabbe added that in the coming year the Emphasis Program, a two-year program of self-directed study and a third-year medicine-ambulatory rotation, will be initiated.

The recent medical school curriculum retreat will be a wellspring of changes, Gabbe said. The retreat emphasized the school’s “student-centered” curriculum and new plans to emphasize professionalism, communication skills, interdisciplinary teams, informatics, life-long learning, evidence-based medicine and cultural competence.

The subject of money can always be counted on to grab the attention of students, and Gabbe pointed out that VUSM’s current scholarship program has nearly doubled in two years, growing from 17 full scholarships in 2002 to 31 in 2004.

Gabbe also described the school’s $50 million scholarship campaign, which is intended to raise funds to support all medical students with need. Seventy-six percent of the medical school students are in debt when they graduate from VUSM owing an average of $90,400, which is $40,000 less than the national average, he said.

Efforts to increase scholarships and reduce indebtedness will be of great interest to perspective students who have been extended offers to join the Class of 2008, and who will return to Vanderbilt April 16-18 for Second Visit Weekend—another opportunity to meet the students and faculty of VUSM, tour the Medical Center including Children’s Hospital, and find out more about Nashville.

Gabbe noted that medical school applications are up 8 percent over last year at VUSM, while the national average has increased only 3.4 percent. Vanderbilt now has 38 students applying for every position in its first-year class, making the medical school one of the most competitive in the country. There have been 3,790 applications; 961 interviews; and 225 acceptances (126 women and 99 men for the Class of 2008), Gabbe told the group.

The dean also recognized that the School of Medicine has many students who are not medical students, recognizing the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program (IGP). With more than 400 students, the IGP has served as a model for many top medical schools in the United States.

He noted that in the past 10 years, postdoctoral fellows at VUSM have authored about 6,000 scientific papers and that The Scientist had named the postdoctoral program one of the best in the country. Gabbe closed the address by emphasizing his goal for the School of Medicine: “To have the best students, educated by the best faculty, in the best environment, to become the best physicians and scientists.”