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From med student
to student advocate

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Assistant Professor Christie Alexander spends a significant amount of her time with medical students – sometimes in unexpected ways. Like recently when one of them handed her the 2017 Gerold L. Schiebler, M.D. Advocate for Medical Students Award from the Florida Medical Association.

Alexander was surprised to be receiving the award from fourth-year student Lauren Jeck at the FMA annual meeting – and humbled to have been nominated for it by third-year student Stefano Leitner.
The award, established in 2003, honors the outstanding service and advocacy of an FMA physician on behalf of the FMA Medical Student Section.

“Over time, Dr. A has taught me many important lessons, helping shape my perspective on how one action may affect multiple parties,” Leitner wrote in the nomination letter. “Through her, I have learned that in medicine, especially community medicine, each decision requires meticulous thought.”

As co-faculty advisor of FSUCares and advisor to the Chapman Community Health Program (CCHP), Alexander sometimes spends as much time teaching students outside the classroom setting as she does on campus.

“Training students to love their patients is my real goal in their education,” she said. “Helping them understand what it means to be humanistic means more to me than any test they can take. The real reward is seeing them develop into physicians I would be proud to call my own and watching the beautiful things they do for their communities, their patients, their peers and for our profession.”

The FMA award wasn’t Alexander’s only recent honor. At the College of Medicine White Coat Ceremony on Aug. 11 she received a Distinguished Alumni Award. Alexander, a member of the college’s inaugural class, is the first College of Medicine alumnus to return as a full-time faculty member.

“She’s been amazing in her work with our students, working after hours and weekends on many different projects,” College of Medicine Dean John P. Fogarty said. “She’s got great energy and even greater enthusiasm, which has been particularly evident in her role helping to create the Chapman Community Health Program.”

That project is a student-run health promotions service focusing on low-income, underserved and uninsured communities in Tallahassee. It serves as a platform for first- and second-year med students to care for a medically underserved population under the guidance of humanistic physician role models.

CCHP provides monthly health screenings, educational events, flu-shot clinics, tutoring sessions and food-pantry events. It partners with multiple community social service agencies, two primary care residency programs, the FSU colleges of Nursing and Social Work, and various FSU undergraduate premedical associations.

Alexander also was appointed to the FMA Board of Governors and the FMA Executive Committee, the latter by new FMA President John Katopodis, a Tallahassee cardiologist and College of Medicine faculty member. He taught Alexander when she was chief resident of the Tallahassee Memorial Hospital Family Medicine Residency Program.

“The entire reason I came back to teach full time at the College of Medicine is my love for the students and my desire to give back to them and to the college that gave me so much,” Alexander said. “I have a strong desire to help them become the best they can be – as people and as physicians.”