Trendsetters - April 2006
Dr. Deanna Wathington
University of South Florida
Family doctor Deanna Wathington has followed an interesting path to becoming associate dean at a medical school. A ballerina by choice, a boxer by necessity, she knew at 9 she would become a doctor but earned a master's in public health and worked in the Philadelphia projects before starting medical school at 29.
It's fitting that someone with an unusual background has become a core part of the University of South Florida medical school's non-traditional training program. When she went to med school, students took two years of class work and labs and then were thrown into the sink-or-swim third year of clinical work -- "fairly hard-nosed and competitive," she says.
USF, by contrast, puts first-year students in mock exam rooms with people hired to simulate symptoms, has them shadow local doctors and learn to listen to patients. "They learn medicine and also about the business of medicine," says Wathington, 43.
USF is one of six innovative schools being studied by the Carnegie Foundation, along with six traditional schools, as it rewrites standards of medical education that have been in place for nearly the last 100 years.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Wathington's grandparents included Southern sharecroppers and a New Jersey Native American. Her father was a high school baseball star who became a computer programmer; her mother was a medical assistant.
Wathington came to Florida 10 years ago, finished her residency at Bayfront Hospital in St. Petersburg and joined the USF faculty in 2003. She was voted teacher of the year by second-year students and teaches groundbreaking courses in clinical diagnosis and reasoning and outpatient care. She sees the future in USF's methods: "I believe that the way we are attempting to teach it now is more responsive to the patient. The patients have been asking for a different kind of physician."