Dr. Deborah German, vice president for medical affairs and founding dean of the UCF College of Medicine, was honored October 22 as a Renaissance Woman in Medicine, receiving the national Alma Dea Morani M.D. Award from the Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine.
The award honors an outstanding woman physician or scientist who has furthered the practice and understanding of medicine, exemplifies humanism and “challenges the status quo with a passion for learning.”
Dr. Morani, a graduate of the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, was the first woman admitted to the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons in 1947 and established Philadelphia’s first hand surgery clinic. Her father, Salvatore, was a famous sculptor who cast the hands of many notable surgeons, including his daughter’s. The award in her honor is a cast copy of the trailblazing doctor’s hand.
Dr. German accepted the award on behalf of “the hundreds of people, even thousands” who worked to create UCF’s new medical school. She thanked “the people who love us and teach us,” especially her family. She also thanked “those who give us opportunity,” highlighting university President John C. Hitt, who hired her as dean in 2006.
The award event, held at the Citrus Club, was sponsored by the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation.
Dr. German summed up her core belief on leadership by presenting all 100 people in attendance with a card printed with the Rudyard Kipling poem, “If,” and said, “Leadership is not about the leader. It’s about those we lead and those we serve. Leadership is not about wanting to be something; it’s about wanting to do something.”
Dr. German said she didn’t want to focus too much on the “war stories” of being one of the few women students at Harvard Medical School and one of the only women doctors in the hospital. She spoke of balancing her roles as a mother of two, a resident and rheumatology fellow. She described as a “circle of life moment” the fact that Dr. Carol Nadelson was a mentor and one of the only female faculty members at Harvard and was on hand to help present the award.
Dr. Richard Peppler, the College of Medicine’s associate dean for faculty and student affairs, and Dr. Cristina Fernandez-Valle, professor in the college’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, nominated Dr. German for the award and introduced her at the event. They spoke of Dr. German’s focus on excellence and partnership in building from scratch the nation’s first new medical school in more than two decades.
“Dean German did what many said was impossible: She transformed cow pastures 20 miles from the main UCF campus into an innovative medical school dedicated to educating tomorrow’s healthcare leaders and improving the health of our entire community,” Dr. Peppler said. “In everything she does, Deb German exemplifies UCF President Hitt’s challenge to ‘make the impossible the inevitable.’” He talked of how students in UCF’s very young M.D. program are outscoring more than half of all students taking national exams and how 100 percent of the 2014 graduating class matched into residencies at top hospitals in Florida and across the country.
Dr. Fernandez-Valle quoted the Walt Disney saying that is framed in Dr. German’s office: “If you can dream it, you can do it.” She explained how Dr. German galvanized a community to raise nearly $7 million for full scholarships for all 40 students in the charter class to attract top students to a medical school with no permanent buildings, no reputation and no full accreditation. “Dr. German has created a new kind of education – innovative, interactive– blending basic science with clinical care from the first days of medical school,” she said, “a curriculum that trains students to have a head and a heart for medicine. Dr. Peppler and I are delighted to present a leader, physician, scholar and mentor who truly has changed the status quo with a passion for learning.”