Leaders in Medical Education

Dr. Arthur Ross, Interim Dean of Florida Atlantic University's Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine

Osmosis Team
Aug 4, 2016

Arthur J. Ross, III, MD, MBA, led the WVU School of Medicine for five years from 2010 - 2015. During his tenure at WVU, the School expanded its faculty substantially; won a major, multi-year NIH award to develop clinical and translational research; and fully restructured its faculty practice and teaching hospital management. In 2015 the School received a full eight year reaccreditation by the Liaison Committee On Medical Education (LCME).

A pediatric surgeon and researcher, Dr. Ross has served three medical schools as a campus executive or dean. Currently, he is serving as Interim Dean and Professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine. In this role, he is helping the University determine how to best position the College of Medicine for its next phase of growth as well as leading the search for the College’s next “permanent” Dean.

He is a graduate of Trinity College and the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, with postgraduate medical and research training at Duke University Medical Center; University of North Carolina School of Medicine, and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. He earned a master's in administrative medicine from the University of Wisconsin- Madison and a master’s in business administration from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

How did you decide on a career in medicine?
I couldn’t stand the sight of blood. So, medicine was never a consideration for me until my freshman year in college when my roommate badly lacerated his arm. There was blood everywhere and I methodically put to use all the first aid concepts I had learned over the years. Once done, I realized I was “ok” with all the blood which was covering me. An epiphany…..I realized the only blood I had ever experienced was my own! With that, my career in medicine was hatched! By the way, to this day, the sight of my own blood makes me lightheaded; the blood of others, not so much!

What were a few key steps in your journey from an aspiring medical student to your current position as Interim Dean of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University?
It was really more of an iterative journey than one which was step-by-step. To my good fortune, every step along the way when I wanted to branch out in a new direction, I had a wonderful mentor who provided me with the time and support I needed to get there. Lucky me! Medicine is a wonderful profession for many reasons, one of which is that it is one of the few careers where one can simultaneously serve as a mentor while being mentored yourself.

What made you choose pediatric surgery as your specialty?
I have always been drawn to serving and/or caring for children. From camp counselor to physician, I have found great joy and gratification from accomplishing something of benefit to a little one. Much of pediatric surgery is based upon a knowledge and understanding of embryology & developmental biology; these were, by far, my favorite “science” college courses. So, the whole thing came together once I became aware of the specialty.

What is the greatest difference between the clinical side of medicine and the administrative side?
I am more driven by the greatest similarity which is that both are “service” oriented as well as learner & patient centered. I suppose if a difference is to be had it is that the clinical side is more “micro” oriented (eg, the focus is upon one patient at a time) whereas on the administrative side we are more “macro” (group or population focused) in our focus. In many ways, this is the root cause of the issues that bubble up when clinicians and administrators need to solve problems. And is why having served in both roles is always an advantage in finding effective solutions.

What was/were the most memorable experience(s) during your medical education?
I can think of two things. The first was getting admitted. In the “old days,” you were invited to come interview on a specific day and time. And, if you wanted to go to that medical school…..you were there. The date I was offered at the School I wanted to attend more than any other (Case Western Reserve) was the Saturday of our football game against our arch rivals. I “had” to play but could not stomach the thought it might result in my not getting into the School of my choice, so I very timidly asked if I could come any for my interview any other day of the year. I got permission and when I came for the interview, the first question I was asked is “Well, did you guys win?” I proudly said “yes” and was shocked when the Admissions Dean replied “That’s what I like to hear; you’re my kind of guy. You’re in!”

Equally memorable is the day in my first year of medical school when I got lost in the hospital and found myself standing in from of a door bearing the sign “Pediatric Surgery.” Wow, I never knew that such a field existed….it was at that moment that I knew I had found my calling in medicine.

Can you describe how having a liberal arts undergraduate education helped shape the way you are as a physician?
I believe in the value of a liberal arts education even more now than when I signed up for mine. Whereas we can shorten the path to someone’s entry into the practice of medicine by only focusing upon a professional curriculum we cannot forget that medicine is an art as well as a science. Much of the humanism in medicine comes from the awareness one develops through their exposure to the liberal arts and social sciences. My favorite undergraduate course was “The History of Art.” The text books I used for organic chemistry, etc are long gone, but I still have my copy of Janson’s History of Art!

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing physicians today?
Well, it’s nothing new…..the ever present emergence of new knowledge and new technology is a constant challenge. Every physician wants to be “cutting edge” with his or her ability to practice “state of the art” medicine. The time and dedicated effort required to keep one’s information and skills current is immense and, sometimes, overwhelming. 

In a time where technology is rapidly advancing and there is a push toward “precision medicine” initiatives and moving medical records to electronic databases, how can we best streamline this process while keeping in mind patient privacy?
It all boils down to assuring we remain patient centered. Decisions which are not in the interest of optimizing quality, patient safety and the assurance of privacy are not good decisions. This said, we need to be provider focused as well. Anything we can do to make this all “user friendly” will ultimately impact positively upon our patient centered goals.

There is an enormous debate these days as to whether resources should be primarily allocated to fighting diseases or the distal causes of diseases. What are your thoughts on this issue of proximal causes versus distal causes?

I’m not sure I agree with your statement. I think it is more balancing the resources put into improving health & wellness…to mean the prevention side of the equation…….as opposed to those that look to cure disease. Needless to say, both are important but, heretofore, we have fallen largely on the “cure” side of the equation. More resources spent upon “prevention,” and the compensation of those who do it well, is money well spent.

How do you foresee medical education changing in the next few years?
I see an increased focus upon the demonstration of competencies as the ultimate measure of achievement. The enhanced use of simulation technologies will permit such assessments to be as objective as is possible. Parallel will be the demonstration of facility with data / evidence driven decision making. The outcome of this will be less emphasis on memorization and more upon the demonstration of the ability to access needed information in an accurate and timely manner.