South Florida Hospital News
Tuesday July 16, 2019
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May 2014 - Volume 10 - Issue 11

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NSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine Celebrates 35 Years of Achievement

With all the deserved excitement surrounding Nova Southeastern University’s 50th anniversary, it would be easy to overlook an important numerical milestone related to the College of Osteopathic Medicine, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year.
 
The college was established in 1979, thanks to the efforts of a trailblazing D.O. named Morton Terry, whose predominant objective was to construct a curriculum that was both comprehensive and cutting-edge. As the 1990s drew to a close, however, technological advances were having a significant impact on the way medical schools structured their curricula. Similarly, because the osteopathic profession continued to gain acceptance within the allopathic (M.D.) community and grow in popularity with the general public, NSU-COM needed to ensure it remained relevant and a leader in an ever-evolving educational environment.
 
Enter Anthony J. Silvagni, D.O., Pharm.D., M.Sc., who became NSU-COM’s commander-in-chief in 1998 and now stands as the most durable dean in the college’s 35-year existence. During his 16-year tenure as NSU-COM’s passionate and charismatic leader, Dr. Silvagni has overseen a sustained period of growth and achievement that even he couldn’t have foreseen when he first arrived on campus to become the college’s fourth dean.
 
With the support of upper administration, Dr. Silvagni spent the first five years of his deanship masterminding a mind-boggling mix of accomplishments that included an explosion of submitted grant proposals and grants received, development and implementation of local and international medical outreach trips, and development of the nation’s first osteopathic preventive medicine residency program.
 
One of the college’s most significant strides relates to research, which was essentially nonexistent when Dr. Silvagni came on board in 1998. “We went from very little non-legislative external funding to number one in grant submissions university-wide, number one in total external funding, and number two in research funding dollars received after NSU’s Oceanographic Center in relation to NSU’s 18 colleges, schools, and centers,” he explained.
 
With over $16 million in current fiscal year external funding—and more on the horizon—NSU-COM has come a long way in a relatively short period of time. And now that construction has officially begun on NSU’s long-awaited Center for Collaborative Research (CCR), the college’s investigative possibilities appear limitless.
 
One of NSU-COM’s most-ballyhooed research endeavors occurred in February 2013 when, under the direction of Nancy Klimas, M.D., the college opened the Institute for Neuro-Immune Medicine—a $5 million first-of-its-kind facility that treats patients with conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis and Gulf War Illness, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and other illnesses. Last fall, the institute received a $4.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to fund its research project titled “Understanding Gulf War Illness (GWI): An Integrative Modeling Approach.”
 
“The scope of our research efforts has expanded greatly over the years, which was evidenced last October when Dr. Raymond Ownby, who chairs our Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, received NSU’s Provost’s Research and Scholarship Award,” said Dr. Silvagni of the accolade that recognizes a faculty member who has demonstrated significant achievement in support of NSU’s mission to foster scholarship, intellectual inquiry, and academic excellence. “We currently have external funding for projects related to areas including health literacy, interprofessional education, HIV/AIDS, neuro-immune medicine, geriatrics, electronic health records, tobacco cessation, and working with homeless populations.”
 
By focusing on an ambitious agenda combining growth, innovation, and enrichment and embracing an interprofessional approach, NSU-COM has truly evolved into the type of educational entity its founder, Dr. Terry, imagined when he established the college, and later, the NSU Health Professions Division. “We are not isolationists; we are not silo makers.” Dr. Silvagni explained. “We are a broad-based medical school that is built on interprofessional concepts that were initiated by Dr. Terry several decades ago. He wanted this to be a collaborative team of health professionals that could better serve patients. We’re not totally there yet, but we’re getting closer.”
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