University of South Florida

First class of USF SELECT medical students moves to Allentown, PA
USF arrival Chassey_600x400

Ron Swinfard, MD, president and CEO of Leigh Valley Health Network, presents USF SELECT MD student Kirk Chassey, with a lab coat during the May 6 orientation ceremony. The coats were presented to all 18 students arriving from USF to begin their two years of clinical education at LVHN.

 Click here for update on USF SELECT students at Lehigh Valley Health Network

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Holding his baby daughter in one arm, Keith O’Brien directs movers with the other arm toward boxes he needs loaded onto a truck.

He is one of 18 USF second-year medical students packing up their homes in Tampa to move to Allentown, PA, where they will spend the next two years in clinical rotations at the Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) as part of USF’s innovative SELECT (Scholarly Excellence. Leadership Experience. Collaborative Training) Program.

The program, which welcomed its charter class in Fall 2011, is part of the MD program at the USF Morsani College of Medicine. The specialized track gives SELECT students unique training in leadership development, intense coaching, and the scholarly tools they need to become empathetic, passionate physician leaders who will be catalysts for change.

USF partnered with LVHN for the SELECT program to combine key strengths of both institutions: USF Health is known for its patient-centric, innovative medical curriculum and Lehigh Valley is recognized as one of the best community hospital systems in the nation.

While the entire Class of 2015 is transitioning into third-year clinical rotations – a shift from predominately classroom work into patient exam rooms – these 18 SELECT students are the first to make a 1,100-mile move to begin that transition.


1,100-Mile Journey

O’Brien and his wife Patty are moving with their 4-month-old daughter Claire. For this new family, the move to Pennsylvania is a bit of a homecoming.

“We’re from New York and both Patty and I went to school in Lafayette (PA), which is only about 10 minutes from Allentown,” O’Brien said. “Needless to say, our parents are thrilled we’re coming back, especially the baby. It will be nice to be near family.”

It’s a road back home for Emma Webb, as well.

“Our family is so excited we’re coming back,” said Webb, whose husband Mustafa and 6-year-old daughter Samantha are going, too. “They were pretty upset that I was taking their granddaughter away for two years.”


Emma Webb and daughter Samantha pack up toys they’re taking to Allentown.

 Aresh Ramin is also going home.

“I truly enjoyed my time in Tampa, but I look forward to going back,” said Ramin, who is from Boston and worked at LVHN between undergraduate school and medical school.



Aresh Ramin packs his apartment before hitting the road north.

But for some of the 18, the trip means leaving home.

“We’re looking at it as a great adventure,” said Alexandra Printz, who grew up mostly in Florida and earned her bachelor’s degree from USF. She is moving to Allentown with husband George and their two children, 6-year-old Ari and 4-year-old Vaughn. “This will be a big move for all of us, but especially for the kids, who have only lived here. But they have a bit of a transition themselves. They will spend most of the summer with their grandparents and dad George in Sarasota and go to summer camps before they make the move to Allentown.”


Alexandra Printz, who grew up in Florida, is moving with her  family to Allentown.

Frontline for Medical Education

The charter class of SELECT is embarking on the first program of its kind to train future physician leaders, a milestone that is front and center for Stephen K. Klasko, MD, MBA, CEO of USF Health and dean of the USF Morsani College of Medicine.

“All of our USF Health students are unique,” Dr. Klasko said. “These 18 pioneers are willing to go where no medical students have gone before… where their clinical training is over a thousand miles away and their curriculum is based on the transformations of a very different healthcare future.  They are the inaugural group of students helping us blaze the trail for the new medical education model, for the new way doctors will be taught and trained. This is how medical education is changing, and they are innovators, pacesetters, and leaders.”

SELECT student O’Brien is also keenly aware of the distinction.

“It’s a special feeling about what they’re doing,” O’Brien said. “There is something so unique about this program. The training, the extra effort taken to provide the experiences that will make us strong leaders. I appreciate the extra effort. The way we’re training doctors is changing and the SELECT program is on the front of the curve of that change.”

Ramin agrees.


“SELECT truly changed my life and is helping me grow,” said Ramin, who worked in LVHN as a nurse’s aide when he heard about the SELECT program at the employee orientation session, and didn’t hesitate applying. “I’m getting experiences that all medical students get, but SELECT goes beyond just the medical aspect. I’m learning about leadership, the healthcare system, and patient-centered care.”

And so does Sasha Yakhkind.

“What I’ve enjoyed about SELECT is that they ask for our ideas and opinions for how things are going because it’s so new,” Yakhkind said. “It’s an honor to give feedback, to be heard.”

New Beginnings

It’s been a quick two years for the medical students in the SELECT program. Beyond the packing, the trip to Allentown is about new beginnings. Common among all  the students are feelings of nervousness and excitement.

“It’s a surprise and surprises are good,” Ramin said. “It will be a totally different experience being out of classroom and in patient situations. But I’ll see all of my friends again and have all of my friends from Tampa. It will be a different chapter.”

“I’m super, super excited for the clinical aspect of it,” Yakhkind said. “Allentown is more rural than Tampa. But we’re a train ride away from New York City. And I’ll miss some of my closest friends, fellow medical students who are staying here in Tampa.”

“It’s a brave new world,” Printz said. “It’s an incredible experience to be connected to two incredible institutions.”

“The two years really go quickly,” O’Brien said. “And now it’s ‘Wow! This is really happening.’  We all just get the feeling Allentown is going to roll out the red carpet for us.”

And what’s in store when they get to Allentown?  This Monday morning, May 6, the SELECT inaugural class will be welcomed to Allentown by Dr. Ronald Swinfard, president and CEO of Lehigh Valley Health Network. The students will meet the LVHN clinical faculty and be presented with new white coats that they will wear over the next two years of their clinical education.

New Traditions

As a charter group, the SELECT students are forming traditions for the next generation to follow. For this move north, current first-year SELECT students helped second-year students (soon to be third-year students), pack up.


 First-year medical students helped the Printz family load for their move to Allentown. Standing in the truck are Kirk Chassey and Alexandra Printz. On the ground,  are from left, Mary Kate Erdman, Neil Manimala, Samson Lu, Joe Stidham (top), Rachel Fieman (bottom), and Tom Fowler.




Charter USF SELECT Students at LVHN

Charter USF SELECT MD students with Alan Otuski, MD,(far left), associate dean of educational affairs for SELECT, and LVHN President and CEO Ron Swinfard, MD (far right). The students will spend their third and fourth years of medical school at LVHN doing classroom study, medical simulations, regular hospital rotations and primary care practice assignments.

Story by Sarah A. Worth, photos by Eric Younghans and Klaus Herdocia, USF Health Office of Communications.

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