The excitement and anticipation were palpable as the M.D. Class of 2026 gathered in the Rosenstiel Medical Science Building, prepared to embark on what Henri R. Ford, M.D., M.H.A., dean and chief academic officer of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, called “what is obviously one of the greatest journeys of your life.”
Dean Ford kicked off the two-day orientation on August 4 with an address to the students, expressing gratitude for the in-person, real-time interaction. Acknowledging the mixture of emotions they might be feeling, he said that to ensure their success in medical school, students should reflect on their learning skills, make adjustments if necessary, and seek out assistance when needed.
“We have an outstanding body of clinicians, physician-scientists, basic scientists, all of whom are brilliant in their own fields, but they are also committed and dedicated to your education, and they want to see you reach your full potential,” Dean Ford said. “Our job is to turn you into transformative leaders who will help shape the future of medicine, lead health systems to deliver value-based health care, and ultimately champion discovery and its translation into clinical interventions that hopefully will improve the health of humanity.”
Incoming Students’ Outstanding Stats
The incoming class boasts the highest grade point averages and MCAT scores in the Miller School’s history. There were 11,017 applicants for the 204 spots occupied by newly matriculated students. Of the new first-year students, 55% are women and 53% are minorities — almost 27% minorities that are underrepresented in medicine; 55% are non-Florida residents.
Dean Ford stressed to the students the importance of learning from and supporting each other.
“We have 204 amazing, talented individuals, most of whom have completely different experiences. Open your horizons. Get to understand people. Listen to learn, not to rebut,” he said.
These themes recurred as other speakers congratulated and welcomed the new first-year students: The journey is tough, but vast resources are available to you. Find balance, care for yourself, and seek out support when necessary. Keep your mind open. Build community with one another and faculty, staff, mentors, and patients. You are part of the Miller School family.
Learning at a Pivotal Moment in Medicine
Students viewed a video message from Latha Chandran, M.D., M.P.H., executive dean and the founding chair of the Department of Medical Education, who acknowledged that their studies are commencing at a pivotal moment in medicine, when health care will transform within the digital age.
Dr. Chandran urged students to “learn the clinical skills and essential components, as well as to learn about your personal growth, your professional identity, and the core values of what this profession means.”
Pia Iribarren, Class of 2024, executive president for student government, welcomed the first-year students and outlined the committees, events, programs, and more than 90 interest groups the student government oversees.
Using breathtaking vacation photos as illustration, Hilit Mechaber, M.D. ’95, senior associate dean for student affairs, spoke about awaiting the unexpected and persevering through barriers and obstacles to find something enlightening, enriching, and meaningful.
“You all bring incredible individuality to the table, and we want you to maintain that as you become part of this family,” Dr. Mechaber said. “Be bold. Make your mark. We know that there are great things that await us as we learn about all the accomplishments and things that you will bring through your journey here. And we look forward to celebrating those with you.”
Orientation presentations and activities left students eager for their formal medical studies to begin.
“After anticipating this moment for so many years, it's a little surreal to know that it's finally here,” said Alex Pedowitz, who chose the school partly because of Miami’s diversity and the opportunities for community involvement through the NextGenMD curriculum. “But the classmates I've met are just as passionate as I am and have such unique life experiences, and the faculty have definitely made me feel welcome.”
Peyton Warp volunteered at a free clinic as an undergraduate student. “It was important to me that the school I chose to attend for my medical education shared my passion toward providing care to underserved populations, and the Miller School truly does,” she said. “I was also drawn toward its culture and camaraderie. I already feel like I am part of the Miller School family.”