A Conversation with Dr. Jerry Youkey, Dean of the USC School of Medicine Greenville

Dean Jerry Youkey, MD

Dean Jerry Youkey, MD

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USC School of Medicine Greenville
Q&A With Dean Jerry Youkey, MD
March 4, 2013

EDITOR'S NOTE: The University of South Carolina (USC) School of Medicine Greenville welcomed its charter class of medical students in fall 2012. This is the state's third medical school, joining the USC School of Medicine Columbia and the MUSC College of Medicine in Charleston.

UpstateBizSC: The USC School of Medicine Greenville is the state's newest medical school, but it has an "old soul."

Dean Youkey: While we're officially new, we're really the result of a dream that began back in the 1960s when leaders of the Greenville Hospital System (GHS) and the University of South Carolina began a conversation that started with "What if?" Now, half a century later, we have a new medical school that Governor Nikki Haley recently called "a gift to the Upstate and the people of South Carolina."

What's also interesting about our medical school is that our two partners, USC and GHS, the state's largest university and the largest health system respectively, bring tremendous experience to the table. USC has had a medical school in Columbia for more than 30 years. GHS started a medical residency program in 1922, has been teaching USC third and fourth year medical students since 1991, and has a full clinical faculty. So while we're a newly accredited four-year medical school, we've been at this a long time.

UpstateBizSC: Is it unusual to have a health system as a partner in a medical school?

Dean Youkey: Not really. In Columbia, Palmetto Health is a clinical partner of the USC School of Medicine and MUSC has its own academic health system. What's unique about the USC School of Medicine Greenville is that GHS elected to fund the startup of the medical school. This was done for two very strategic reasons. First, we're facing a tremendous physician shortage in our nation. GHS is the state's largest health system and needs a source of physicians to meet the Upstate's health care needs. Having the medical school on the campus of Greenville Memorial Hospital gives GHS the opportunity to "grow its own" physicians.

Second, we all know our current system of health care isn't working. If we're going to improve access, quality and safety, we have to change the way we practice medicine and that begins with basic education. The vision and the goal of the USC School of Medicine are to prepare physicians capable of leading and practicing medicine in new and innovative ways.

UpstateBizSC: What are you doing differently from other medical schools?

Dean Youkey: It's a pretty long list, but here are three significant ways we're different. One, our curriculum is different in that we take a "team-based" approach to teaching. Instead of a single faculty member lecturing to students, a team of faculty members from different disciplines teach together in a more discussion-based format. We link basic science to clinical science—heart disease for example—so students "get" the sometimes abstract concepts they're learning.

Two, medical students typically don't come into significant contact with patients until their third year of medical school. Our students have patient contact from day one when they begin a six-week course to become certified Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), a requirement of our medical school. During this time, they work as part of a health care team alongside EMS professionals, they see where their patients come from and develop a connection with our community, and they get a solid foundation of basic medical care that will serve them well the rest of medical school and their careers.

Three, when our students come to campus, we provide them with a laptop and an iPad, the new tools of medicine. We live in a wired world, and teaching our medical students how to use information technology to provide the best patient care possible is critical.

I know I said I'd mention three things that set us apart, but I would be remiss if I didn't recognize my faculty and administration. The challenge of developing and delivering a new curriculum is a major tour de force! Our people have embraced the dream of our medical school and run with it.

UpstateBizSC: You're almost through the first year of the first class of medical students. What jumps out of you?

Dean Youkey: Medical school is hard! (Chuckles) Our first class of students doesn't benefit from the perspective of older classmates to guide them through the rigors of the program, so for them this year has been a maturation process. Realize, these are all top students and they've been surprised at how grueling medical school is. Fortunately, they are very supportive of one another and have excellent morale. The Greenville community has been very supportive as well. It's great to see.

UpstateBizSC: Next week the Governor's School of Science & Mathematics will present the USC School of Medicine Greenville with its prestigious Townes Award given annually to an individual or institution that has raised the quality of science, mathematics, and technology innovation in South Carolina. What is your response?

Dean Youkey: Clearly, it's an honor and humbling when you look at previous recipients, people like former Governor Carroll Campbell, Former Senator Ernest Hollings, Roger Milliken, Charles W. Coker, Charles F. Bolden, Jr., Darla Moore, Ed Sellers, these are South Carolina's visionaries, people who dared to dream and have played a role in making our state better for all.

From our standpoint—and I speak for the Greenville Hospital System, the University of South Carolina and all of the stakeholders in our medical school—the award recognizes a half century of people who dared to dream of a medical school in the Upstate and were relentless in seeing the dream to fruition. The Governor's School, by presenting us with the Townes Award, recognizes the major impact our medical school will have on the Upstate, on South Carolina and the nation.

UpstateBizSC: In closing, any big surprises this year?

Dean Youkey: I have been amazed at the amount of national attention we're getting. The word has gotten out that we have something special in South Carolina. The dean of the Georgetown University School of Medicine recently visited us because he wanted to see our campus and curriculum in advance of a new medical school they're starting in New Jersey. We just had a conference call with the Mayo Clinic for the same reason. They're starting a medical school in Arizona and want to know what we're doing. Representatives of the American Medical Association and American Association of Medical Colleges are also planning visits.