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Release Date: December 20, 2023

UQ-OCS 2023 Graduating Class

Ochsner Health and University of Queensland (UQ)’s joint Doctor of Medicine (MD) program honored its 2023 graduating class at its annual culmination ceremony on November 18. The 96 graduating students completed the four-year program, which offers training and clinical experience across two continents. Students completed two years of medical school curriculum in Brisbane, Australia, at The University of Queensland. The final two years of clinical study were conducted at the UQ-Ochsner Clinical School at Ochsner Medical Center – New Orleans.

Since welcoming the first UQ-Ochsner MD program class in 2009, about 900 students have graduated, and the program averages an impressive 95% match rate through the National Residency Match Program.

Leonardo Seoane, MD, Ochsner Health's executive vice president and chief academic officer and professor at UQ-Ochsner MD Program, congratulated each UQ-Ochsner medical student on their achievement at the culmination ceremony.

“Ochsner is proud to invest in the next generation of physicians, as we work collectively to make healthcare more accessible, compassionate and equitable for all the communities that we serve, here in Louisiana and beyond,” Dr. Seoane said. “Together, we will all improve health outcomes and change patients’ lives.”

Professor Mark Smithers, chair and head of the Mayne Academy of Surgery at The University of Queensland, delivered the keynote address. Professor Smithers is a surgical oncologist who specializes in surgery for esophago-gastric diseases, melanoma, advanced skin cancer and soft tissue sarcoma. He is the director of the Upper GI and Soft Tissue Unit at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, in Brisbane, Australia.

The ceremony came just a month after leaders from Ochsner and UQ extended their partnership through 2030, pledging to grow the world’s physician pipeline.

The partnership is a critical collaboration, as the U.S. continues to experience a shortage of physicians. A recent Association of American Medical Colleges study estimates that the physician shortage could increase to as many as 124,000 by 2034. Pipeline programs such as the UQ-Ochsner MD program are proactive solutions to help create medical systems of the future.

The UQ-Ochsner MD program has an emphasis on primary care, the foundation of a health system’s ability to proactively impact the health and wellness of a community. This focus is consistent with the Australian healthcare system, which has a curriculum that prioritizes primary care rotations. Because of this exposure, 55% of the medical school’s graduates have chosen a primary care specialty, more than double the average of U.S. medical schools.

In the 2023 academic year, UQ-Ochsner MD program medical students provided nearly 1,200 hours of volunteer services. Overall, more than 100 individual students participated in 35 outreach events in the New Orleans Greater Metropolitan area.

During the culmination ceremony several UQ Ochsner Clinical School faculty and residents were recognized with awards of excellence in clinical teaching. The highest individual award of excellence – the Teacher of the Year award – was bestowed upon Heather Owens, MD, a neonatologist and hospitalist with Ochsner Baptist. Dr. Owens, who is originally from New Mexico, attended Baylor College of Medicine and completed pediatric residency at University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in 2004. She began her career in Denver as a pediatric hospitalist and Associate Professor. She subsequently practiced primary care and inpatient medicine before joining the exceptional Ochsner Baptist Neonatology team as a hospitalist. She takes pride not just in her own practice, but also in teaching the next generation of physicians.

The Resident Teachers of the Year for 2023 are:

  • Mary Gabriel, MD – Internal Medicine
  • Angela Conway, MD – OBGYN
  • Zil Shah, MD – Pediatrics
  • Andrew Silvera, MD – Psychiatry
  • Reginald Du, MD – Surgery
  • Brian Chen, MD – Transplant Surgery Fellow

The following students were also recognized with individual awards:

  • Taylor Ogden - Student Excellence Award for OB/GYN
  • Sophia Trinh - Student Excellence Award for Pediatrics
  • Leah Feulner - Student Excellence Award for Psychiatry
  • Vinayak Ganeshan – Internal Medicine-American College of Physicians Excellence Award
  • Lily Morrison – Dr. E. Edward Martin, Jr. Family Medicine Award
  • Linda Zhang – John Lockwood Ochsner Sr. Surgical Award

Ochsner and UQ are accepting applications for the 2025 cohort. As a quota program in high demand, applicants are encouraged to apply early to secure their place. First interview rounds are scheduled for March 2024.