The Miller School’s three-year M.D. program graduates its first class
By Richard Westlund
Illustration by Neil Webb
ickias Beyene Tegegn, M.D. ’23, looked forward to starting his residency in internal medicine this summer after completing his M.D. at the Miller School in just three years.
“I knew I wanted to be a doctor in high school after seeing the humanitarian response to the Ebola outbreak in Africa,” said Dr. Tegegn, an Ethiopian American who grew up in Florida. “Now I can focus on the next step of my medical career, which might be in infectious disease or another subspecialty needed in developing countries.”
Dr. Tegegn is one of the first seven graduates of the Miller School’s innovative accelerated pathway to residency M.D. program, which reduces the time and cost of a traditional four-year program, including lower overall tuition.
“I would tell other students that the accelerated pathway has great benefits if you have a passion for a certain specialty,” he said. “The program directors have our interests at heart and will help you achieve your career goal.”
With the accelerated pathway, medical students earn their degree then transition into a participating University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital residency, said Latha Chandran, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., executive dean for education, chair of the Department of Medical Education and professor of medical education and pediatrics.
“Our nation is facing a national shortage of physicians, so it is important to enhance the workforce as early as possible,” she said. “There is also a clear economic value in accelerating a student’s medical training.”
Dr. Chandran added that the Miller School and Jackson have many highly ranked residency programs — another reason the accelerated pathway appeals to motivated students with clear career goals.
“Our faculty specialists get to know the medical students personally in their first year, so there is already a strong connection when they graduate,” she said. “This is a win-win program on all counts.”
Benefits from the Accelerated Pathway
Since its launch in 2019, the program has gained national attention from students who value the Miller School’s commitment to their success, according to Jonathan Tolentino, M.D., M.S.H.P.E., program director, associate professor of internal medicine and pediatrics, and director of the PATH Program in transition medicine at UM/JMH.
“I see this program as one of the crown jewels programs of the Miller School,” Dr. Tolentino said. “Our accelerated pathway is ideal for students who are dedicated to a field of medicine and have the talent and drive to pursue their dreams. Students take part in meaningful clinical, educational, research or community work related to their specialty from the very first year of medical school.”
Students can apply for the accelerated pathway before entering the Miller School or during their first year of studies. Students who change their plans can transfer to the school’s four-year program with no loss of time or credits, since core requirements are met in the first two years.
“Our nation is facing a shortage of physicians, so it is important to enhance the workforce as early as possible.”
“We expect to have about 15 applications a year,” Dr. Chandran said. “Our focus is primarily on the clinical side, with research opportunities.”
Noting that most fourth-year medical students spend time and funds traveling to multiple institutions in search of the best residency match, Dr. Chandran said the Miller School’s accelerated program bypasses that stressful and expensive search and interview process. “It definitely provides a faster and smoother transition for graduates,” she added.
The Miller School is one of about 40 members of the Consortium of Accelerated Medical Pathway Programs, which evaluates processes and outcomes of three-year programs.
“We have learned that faculty specialists are unable to tell whether a student has completed medical education in three or four years,” she said. “That means the skill sets are identical to trained observers.”
A Quick Move to Residency
Along with Dr. Tegegn, the first cohort of accelerated pathway graduates included Alexandra Coppa, M.D. ’23; Emily Egnor, M.D. ’23; Ally Citro, M.D. ’23; Juan Diaz Hernandez, M.D. ’23, Jessica Kuhn, M.D. ’23, and Abigail Woltering, M.D. ’23.
“Coming from Rhode Island, I wanted to explore something new, and the Miller School was the perfect choice,” Dr. Coppa said. “From my first interview, I felt right at home here, and I appreciate the great medical education I received. When my third-year peers were applying for residencies, I was able to stay focused on my courses, and feel lucky to continue my training at the Miller School.”
Dr. Kuhn will be following in the footsteps of her mother, Karen Lee Kuhn, M.D. ’94, as she begins a residency in pediatrics.
“I was born during my mom’s residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital,” she said. “As a girl, I would play doctor and see my mom come home every day lit up from her job. I knew I wanted a medical career working with kids and serving the Miami community, so the accelerated pathway was a no-brainer for me. From my perspective, there are no disadvantages to the program.”
Dr. Hernandez was excited to begin his residency in anesthesiology this summer.
“In college, I worked as an EMT on an ambulance and began shadowing physicians, narrowing down my career choices,” he said. “The Miller School was my No. 1 choice, as the training is second to none. In my three years there, I received a lot of support from the faculty and administration, as well as family and friends. Now, I’m living my dream a year sooner.”