University of South Florida

Classes begin for first-year USF Health medical students

In the New Normal – physically distant and wearing masks – the Class of 2024 in the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine began classes this week, marking the start of their four-year medical school journey.

The MD program in the Morsani College of Medicine is one of first programs at USF to start face-to-face classes during the COVID-19 pandemic, an effort that took careful planning, said Bryan Bognar, MD, vice dean of the Morsani College of Medicine.

“We knew we only had one shot at setting this up right,” Dr. Bognar said. “And even with a successful launch, we must be constantly vigilant, all of us, in order to stay ahead of COVID.”

This MCOM Class of 2024, the largest in the college’s history with 190 students, filed into the new building July 27 in set arrival times to pace out screenings. This is the first class to start in the new MCOM facility, which opened in January 2020 in downtown Tampa. Sitting well apart from classmates, the 190 students filled the auditorium, which would typically seat 400 people.

Successfully re-opening for classes was complicated but careful attention to detail is paying off, Dr. Bognar said.

“It’s a marathon, of sorts, and it’s taking an incredible team effort from across USF Health,” he said. “Everyone’s excited about reentry. The key is for us all to stay disciplined to keep it up.”

Some of the main lessons the MCOM program has learned so far include:

  • Allow a lot of extra time to stagger arrival times. You’ll be surprised how smooth it goes when entry is paced out.
  • Frequently repeat the importance of following guidelines. It’s easy to forget so the reminders help prevent old habits from coming back.
  • Lean on student leaders for sharing guidelines and new information to classmates.
  • Tap into student creativity for ways to support the effort, offer reminders and provide supplies.
  • To serve as reminders of how fast COVID-19 can take hold, share news stories about other schools, programs and businesses that experienced jumps in infections when guidelines weren’t followed.


Auditorium photo courtesy of Bryan Bognar. Other photos by Freddie Coleman

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