New Year Note from the Chair

Jamie B. Conti, MD

While we close the book on one of the most challenging years of our lives, I want to take time to reflect on all of the accomplishments in our department this past year. In unprecedented times, we have responded with extraordinary patient care, substantial growth, and national recognition.

Each year, U.S. News & World Report ranks nearly 5,000 hospitals across the country on 16 specialties and ten procedures and conditions. Specialties ranked among the nation’s Top 50 include cancer (33rd), nephrology (33rd), diabetes and endocrinology (34th), pulmonology and lung surgery (tied for 37th), and gastroenterology and GI surgery (45th). Two specialties were ranked the highest in Florida — nephrology and pulmonology and lung surgery. No other hospital in Florida placed as many medical specialties in the Top 50 nationally.

COVID-19 challenged each of us to become flexible, think outside the box and adapt to the “new normal.” As the pandemic advanced, our employees found unique solutions to each new issue.

On January 24th, Nicole Iovine, M.D., PhD, UF Health Shands Hospital Epidemiologist in Chief, provided UF Health with the first update on COVID-19. As the pandemic spread, she and Kartik Cherabuddi, M.D., FACP, were critical to the development and tailoring of protocols for our Coronavirus Response Plan. They worked closely with UF Health officials, county and state health departments and the CDC. 

Dr. Lauzardo at testign site

Michael Lauzardo, M.D., Deputy Director of the UF Emerging Pathogens Institute and a specialist in infectious disease, has been instrumental in the planning and implementation of UF’s policies to combat the virus.  From leading UF Town Halls, directing the testing operations for both UF and The Villages, and the planning and implementation of UF Health Screen, Test & Protect. Dr. Lauzardo and his team have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to ensure the best care for our faculty, staff and patients.   

There are so many of you who deserve to be mentioned for your actions during this past year, but I must express my gratitude to our hospitalists, MICU teams, and infectious diseases consultants for staffing our COVID-units and finding unique ways to care for our patients.  

In the early days of the pandemic, Nila Radhakrishnan, M.D., chief of the division of hospital medicine and Daniel “Ricky” Ortiz, M.D., an assistant professor in the division of hospital medicine, faced problems with several patients whose mental health was deteriorating due to the isolation.  After consulting outside experts on delirium, the hospitalists at UF Health led an effort to re-establish the human connection with patients secluded in their rooms. Nurses rotated between the COVID-19 unit in order to provide that human touch, which lead to the improvement of their patients’ mental health. Read more in an article featured in The POST.

Unit 94 physicians

Our internal medicine residents stepped up to the plate throughout the pandemic as well. When the teams on our medical intensive care unit became inundated with increased caseloads, dozens of residents on elective and research time worked in the MICU in a volunteer “flex” role to share the burden. Additionally, residents volunteered to switch their electives to the busy ID consult services to help with the record number of consults. There were so many volunteers that many had to be turned away. The pandemic tested our residents, and they rose to the challenge.

Through this challenging time, many of you developed and implemented research projects around COVID. Many thanks for your dedication to the advancement of science during this crisis!

In research, the department has climbed the Blue Ridge Report rankings to number 40 with $35.5 million in NIH funding, improving four spots from the prior year. This continued progress in a single year is very encouraging as the department continues to focus on our goal of advancing collaborative team science and increasing extramural funding. Drs. Reinhardt Laubenbacher, Charlie Khemtong, and Carl Atkinson, are just a few recruits that have brought, and will continue to bring, interdisciplinary collaborations as part of our research initiative. 

At the close of the fiscal year, our NIH portfolio included the following number of grants.

NIH Grant List

Not only have we had great success with our grants, we’ve had a huge number of publications. The chart below shows totals of publications across the department through November 30.

Publications List

During this past year, we have completed two national searches for the division chiefs for the Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Medicine and the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine.

Gary Wand MD

Gary Wang, M.D., PhD, FIDSA, joined UF in 2009 as an assistant professor and became section chief of Infectious Diseases at NF/SG VA in 2014. He was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2016. His laboratory, funded by the NIH, VA Merit Review, DoD, and industry, focuses on HIV and HCV antiviral drug resistance, and microbiome studies in C. difficile infection, chronic periodontitis, mental health, and cystic fibrosis. In addition, he is the site PI for two multi-center VA Cooperative Studies Programs and several clinical trials in HIV and C. difficile infection, including fecal microbiota transplant. After serving as Interim Division Chief, he accepted the offer to become the permanent Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Medicine Chief in April.

Juan Aranda

Juan Aranda, Jr., M.D., FACC, graduated from the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1991.  He joined us in 1997, where he has been the section chief and fellowship director of Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplantation, vice chair of the IRB Committee and currently serves as the vice chair of Clinical Affairs. Dr. Aranda has spent the last 25 years dedicated to heart failure and cardiac transplantation research. He has participated in many multicenter, national and international, clinical trials, from the development of new pharmaceutical acute heart failure agents to the use of multiple cardiac devices, such as left ventricular assist devices, defibrillators, and biventricular pacers. In November, Dr. Aranda accepted the role as the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine Chief.

We have several faculty who I’d like to honor for their many years of loyalty and dedication to this department and have hit a milestone in their years of service in 2020. 

Faculty List

In education, we have 116 internal medicine residents, four chief residents and 105 fellows across our department. 100% of our residents matched into fellowship – ten of whom are continuing their education at UF – and 41 of our 44 fellowship openings were filled! Furthermore, 98% of our fellows and 92% of our residents passed their boards this past year. Dr. Jordan Minish, PGY-3, won the GME Innovation of the Year Award for developing the Clinician Educator Track in the Internal Medicine Residency Program. It is the third track established in the residency program within the last six years.

We welcomed 42 new faculty this year, all of whom have hit the ground running. Despite COVID closures, we managed to end 2020 at nearly the same record-breaking number of clinic visits as in 2019 – just shy of 200,000 visits. We are in good shape so far with a very solid financial start from all of our clinical services. Moving from in-person visits to telemedicine, and back again, taught us a lot. But like every challenge we encountered this year, it only highlighted what a great clinical team we have.

We look forward to the expansion of current programs, the addition of a few new ones and even some new clinic space in 2021. Thanks to all for continued hard work and dedication to our patients.

I am in awe of each of you – faculty, staff, housestaff and students – for your selflessness, commitment to our patients and colleagues, and your problem-solving care during this pandemic.

Thank you for all you do to make a true difference in people’s lives. I’m proud to be your Department Chair.

Happy New Year!

Jamie Conti, MD, FACC

Chair, Department of Medicine