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M.D.-Ph.D. student receives national AMA honor

As chief quality officer of the University of Florida College of Medicine’s Equal Access Clinic, Martin Wegman noticed something as he and fellow medical students would treat patients in clinic.

They diagnosed hypertension. They wrote prescriptions. When patients left, though, mystery followed. Wegman, then a second-year M.D.-Ph.D. student, wondered if patients stayed healthy or if their medication helped ailments. To find out, he recruited three undergraduate interns to start calling patients, making follow-ups a part of protocol.

Wegman, was one of 20 medical students, residents and young physicians in the country who recently received the 2013 Medical Student Leadership Award from the American Medical Association. He is now in his third year of the M.D.-Ph.D. program and a doctoral candidate in the department of epidemiology in the College of Public Health and Health Professions and the College of Medicine.

His decision to follow-up with patients led Wegman to found the Health Outreach Quality Improvement program, or HOQI, a partnership with the Equal Access and UF Mobile Outreach clinics. He uses systematic data collection from HOQI’s 11 clinics to teach 55 undergraduate volunteers who their patients are and what barriers they face when seeking care.

“They’re uninsured, typically marginalized by society,” Wegman said. “I work with students to show them how to be responsive to patients — not addressing medical needs, but social needs.”

Wegman, who was named a National Quality Scholar by the American College of Medical Quality, serves as a board member for the local nonprofit Southwest Advocacy Group, or SWAG. SWAG provides educational and quality of life resources to the underserved 32607 zip code.

“It’s more than just a center,” Wegman said. “It’s a group of residents, local advocates and community partners who all come together to serve a region in Gainesville that has a concentrated social and health disparity.”

Wegman also is conducting a sub-study on the $9.9 million Texas Wellness Incentives and Navigation grant with Betsy Shenkman, M.S.N., Ph.D., chairwoman of the department of health outcomes and policy. The project tests whether increasing access to wellness services improves the health of patients who already have health problems.He’s looking at responses to hypertension drugs as well for his predoctoral fellowship, a one- to two-year fellowship that provides junior trainees the opportunity to develop a career in multidisciplinary clinical and translational research.

“There’s no bit of me that is not translational,” Wegman said. “I get challenged because many of my other colleagues are more biomedically focused, so that keeps me grounded.”

Even with a slew of accomplishments and titles, Wegman approaches each project with individual attention. He doesn’t believe in multitasking or balancing work. It’s pure enthusiasm that drives him.

“I get up every morning excited for it all,” he said. “That keeps me moving through.”

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