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Medical college students begin classes

August 21, 2007

A historic collaboration came to fruition this month as the first class of students at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix in partnership with Arizona State University began classes in downtown Phoenix.

The event was celebrated with a luncheon Aug. 3, where ASU President Michael Crow welcomed the trailblazing class that will help shape the school’s curriculum and establish traditions to serve generations to come.

“You are in a design-build operation,” Crow says. “All 24 of you are entering into an absolutely unique learning environment.”

The medical-education curriculum at the college features an interactive teaching approach and an emphasis on biomedical informatics - computer technology skills that support information gathering, diagnosis and the creation of tailored medical treatments or personalized medicine. Mentored scholarly research projects that each student undertakes on an individual basis will form the core of a shared, broad-based learning experience (learning community) over four years. Classes also focus on the integration of clinical and basic-science training.

“You’re going to be a different kind of doctor,” Crow says.

Dean Edward H. Shortliffe cited the fact that the ultimate beneficiaries of the innovative work accomplished at the college will be patients. Shortliffe is a nationally-renowned clinician, educator and expert in biomedical informatics who was recruited from Columbia University to serve as dean of the Phoenix program.

“It’s truly historic,” Shortliffe says. “This is a tremendous opportunity and not one that’s equaled in many places.”

UA President Robert Shelton addressed the crowd through a videotaped message. “We are so pleased to be expanding this exceptional college to the capital city in partnership with ASU,” Shelton says.

Building a school in just three years from its inception was only possible because of the incredible effort put forth by ASU and UA with the support of Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, Phoenix City Council members, the Arizona Legislature and the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR), Shortliffe adds.

ABOR member Robert Bulla cited the importance of the historic partnership between the two schools, which was basically an idea whose genesis was planted on a fishing trip. “This effort could not have been accomplished without the commitment and dedication of so many people,” Bulla says.

Students will attend classes in the historic Phoenix Union High School, at the corner of Seventh and Van Buren streets on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus. The building underwent nearly two years of renovation to provide state-of the art educational facilities that seamlessly meld the old and new with a variety of innovative technologies to enhance instruction.

Among the 24 future doctors in the inaugural class is Sarah Whitley, who received a full, four-year scholarship to the college from Apogee Physicians. She is following in the footsteps of her grandfather who took classes in the same Phoenix Union High School buildings more than 70 years ago.

Twenty-four faculty members from ASU and UA will instruct the Class of 2011. David A. Young, Kathleen S. Matt and Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan represented ASU on an academic task force charged with designing the curriculum for the Phoenix program.

“The medical arena is evolving and physicians increasingly need to be versed in areas such as biomedical informatics. Changing the way we teach and train medical students now will help ensure their success in the future,” Young says.

Among many advantages and partnership opportunities that the medical college will enjoy as part of the Phoenix Biomedical Campus is the opening of the Arizona Biomedical Collaborative building 1 that houses the downtown Phoenix headquarters of the ASU Department of Biomedical Informatics, in collaboration with UA and the Department of Basic Medical Sciences of the Phoenix program. The building will serve ASU students and researchers in the biomedical arena, as well as students attending the medical college. Classes in the biomedical informatics program downtown begin Aug. 20.

The future also holds promise for students attending classes on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus where the Translational Genomics Institute (TGEN) is already housed. The UA College of Pharmacy will occupy space in TGEN in the future and Northern Arizona University will expand its Allied Health programs to the campus.