Leaders in Medical Education

Dr. Julie A. Freischlag, Vice Chancellor for Human Health Sciences and Dean of the School of Medicine at UC Davis

Osmosis Team
Jul 6, 2016

Freischlag is one of the most prominent leaders among the nation’s academic health centers. For more than 15 years, she has led education and training programs at top medical schools in her role as professor and chair of surgery and vascular surgery departments. Freischlag also has more than 30 years of experience leading patientcare services as either chief of surgery or vascular surgery at nationally ranked hospitals. Freischlag received a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Illinois and a medical degree from Rush University Medical College in Chicago. She completed her surgical residency and vascular fellowship at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

How did you decide on a career in medicine?
I initially wanted to be a biology high school teacher as my mother was an elementary school teacher and I was good in science. When I got to The University of Illinois for college,  the school of education was closed as they thought there were going to be too many teachers! So, as a Liberal Arts major, I elected to pre- Med as in order to go to nursing school - I had to leave my senior year and go to Chicago- and I loved the campus in Urbana- Champaign- and did not want to leave!

What were a few key steps in your journey from an aspiring medical student to your current position?
I always took a chance and said "yes I can!"

I did surgery as my first clinical rotation and loved it- thought I would be a pediatrician- and I decided to try to match in California- and I did! At UCLA!

I interviewed many times to be selected as a Department Chair of Surgery and as a Dean. You have to be passionate, resilient and flexible.

What is the greatest difference between the clinical side of medicine and the  administrative side?
Clinical care is so rewarding, but it is hard work and if you do it well - it takes up your time and you do worry and fret about your patients.

Administration is hard work too, but it involves a lot more strategic planning- which I love- and dealing with complicated interpersonal issues. You do get to look at the big picture and help change culture from the top.

What does an "average" day look like for you?
I work 10-12 hour days with frequent dinners to recruit new physicians and leaders along with celebrations of accomplishments and philanthropic gifts. I meet with my leaders once a month along with staff and students. I see patients in clinic 2-3 times per month and I still operate a few times a month. I am a specialist in a certain procedure and have taught that procedure to my partners and patients come from all around to see me for thoracic outlet syndrome. I give many speeches- short and long- highlighting the great place UC Davis Health System is. Presently, we are doing strategic planning for the health system.

I also travel to give speeches on my clinical work, education and leadership.

What was/were the most memorable experience(s) during your medical education?
All the great doctors, nurses and patients I met! Including the other medical students!

What are most the important facets of an undergraduate's application to medical school from an admissions perspective?
Learning to communicate well with patients and understanding the special pact you are creating between you and your patient

How do you foresee medical education changing in the next few years?
More on-line education- "flipped classroom" and earlier patient interaction.

Leadership training for all students!