South Florida has a reputation for world-class health care, attracting top doctors as well as patients from around the world in pursuit of the latest treatments. Into this exciting mix steps Dr. Juan C. Cendan, newly appointed dean of the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and senior vice president for health affairs.
The board-certified general surgeon joined FIU last year as a vice dean and soon after took on the role of interim dean. He has taught on a range of topics, among them cardiovascular shock, disorders of the adrenal glands and obesity. He has mentored students and residents interested in surgical careers and supervised clinical trainees in international health care and medical students on educational exchange in Mexico, Peru and Ethiopia.
How does the spirit of ingenuity that pervades South Florida both complement and drive research in the college of medicine?
Collaboration is key. For example, we are partnering with Baptist Health South Florida for a clinical trial to improve the memory and cognition of Alzheimer’s patients using an exciting new technology: low-intensity focused ultrasound. This work is led by two of our faculty members, one of whom is also the chief medical executive at Baptist’s Miami Neuroscience Institute. We also just named a new associate dean for research with the kind of experience needed to help us enhance our basic science research and turn our discoveries into better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat diseases.
FIU has taken a unique approach to educating medical students, one that does not depend on a dedicated teaching hospital. Can you speak to the opportunities this presents?
Our curricular model integrates with the community and our many clinical partners. Our students rotate through multiple clinical venues in South Florida, from private practices and community clinics to large hospital systems. And the feedback we get from graduates is that this is very helpful when they enter residency because they feel comfortable wherever they go.
You have expertise in simulation for medical education purposes. What is the role of technology in teaching aspiring doctors?
Technology goes hand in hand with medical care, and our students are constantly exposed to it, from electronic medical records to telemedicine and AI. But there is more to training future doctors. And we are national leaders in a paradigm shift in medical education that, instead of basing outcomes just on grades, considers students’ behavior and capacity, their readiness for work. For example, we are one of only 10 medical schools in the country selected by the Association of American Medical Colleges for a pilot program around what are called “entrustable professional activities.” These point to practical approaches to assessing competence in real-world settings and address areas such as history gathering, informed consent, patient safety and interprofessional collaboration.
Any priorities you care to share?
As a medical school, it is critical that we increase our clinical impact in the community. We must grow our health care delivery system by either expanding our own clinic, partnering with local clinical affiliates or both. This will, in turn, help drive our medical education mission and our research enterprise.