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ALUMNI: RUSM Grad Practices AND Chairs Dept. of Medicine. It’s the Best of Both Worlds.

June 20, 2016

Vincent Armenio, MD, RUSM Class of 1986, is the Chairman of Medicine at Roger Williams Medical Center in Providence, RI.

Vincent Armenio, MD, RUSM Class of 1986, is the Chairman of Medicine at Roger Williams Medical Center in Providence, RI.

Vincent Armenio, Chairman of the Department of Medicine at Roger Williams Medical Center (RWMC) in Rhode Island, is a pretty busy guy—but you wouldn’t know that by talking to him. The 1986 Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) graduate speaks almost casually about his typical work week, which includes packed days alternately treating patients, holding administrative meetings with department heads, and fielding emergency calls from RWMC.

That’s in addition to countless other responsibilities. As chairman, Armenio’s in charge of all of the disciplines under RWMC’s departmental umbrella, including cardiology, gastroenterology, infectious diseases, and others. He regularly meets with division heads, determines their needs, and works to address them.

And all the while, he’s keeping an eye on the broader healthcare landscape in his community, identifying healthcare gaps and adopting strategic plans to fill them. For example, he’s working to establish both a Gastrointestinal Center of Excellence and a Diabetic Center for the area RWMC serves; both initiatives would fill a definitive healthcare need in surrounding neighborhoods.

It’s a big job. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Best of Both Worlds

“I’m in charge of a department but I still get to practice medicine,” says Armenio, a hematologist/oncologist. “I get the best of both worlds.”

It’s important, he says, to touch both of these worlds—the administrative side because it’s part of his responsibilities as Chairman of Medicine, and the practice-based side because it puts him into the shoes of the physicians he supports as chairman. Doing that, he contends, allows him to better serve hospital division directors and meet their needs.

“I don’t live in an ivory tower,” he jokes. “I have to know what our physicians are going through to help address the needs of what they want in a hospital or program.”

His RUSM Experience in the School’s Early Years

Armenio started at RUSM in its formative years, enrolling in 1982. He began straight out of college. He was told—when inquiring about other medical schools—that to succeed as a candidate, it would probably be best to complete two years of postgraduate education.

But he didn’t want to wait.

“I said to myself, the curriculum is exactly the same as American medical schools,” he recalls. So he enrolled, and in his eyes, attending RUSM made him a better physician.

“I thought my education there was excellent,” Armenio says.

It was an interesting time. In 1982, early in RUSM’s life, Dr. Armenio stayed in spartan housing, and would walk down a forested path to get to campus. Sometimes, he laughs, he and his classmates would be greeted by a bull or a cow, tethered up and munching on foliage. It was a far cry from how the campus—which now has a Simulation Center, technologically advanced anatomy labs, and high-tech medical education tools—exists today, in 2016.

Despite the school’s humble beginnings, Armenio got what he needed at RUSM. For example, clinical rotations—which, these days, take place at RUSM-affiliated US teaching hospitals—actually took place on the island of St. Kitts, and Armenio ended up learning medicine in a very hands-on way.

“We were given leeway,” he says. “We were taught something, and then we did it.” On call in the emergency room at St. Kitts, Armenio recalls, is where he first learned to stitch wounds. “They told me if you want to learn to sew, be there on Friday and Saturday nights,” he says. That’s when most of the injuries tended to come in, he says.

 “Ross Gives You a Chance”

On occasion, while on the job at RWMC, Armenio comes into contact with RUSM graduates undergoing residency at his hospital.

“They’re very well-trained, extremely smart, and very personable,” says Armenio of the RUSM graduates he’s met. “The thing I noticed is that they’re constantly challenging themselves, that they always want to do better,” he says. “And they love to ask me about war stories from the old Ross [University School of Medicine].”

To prospective RUSM students, Armenio has one thing to say: if you want to be a physician more than anything, RUSM is your opportunity.

“Ross gives you a chance that, maybe, someone else wouldn’t give you,” he says. “You didn’t go to Harvard, but that humbles you—humbled in a way that you try to be better than everyone else. You’re making a name for yourself with your hard work, your dedication. Once you get that chance, you need to run with it, and you need to be the best physician you can be.”

Given his responsibilities at RWMC and the impact he has had in Rhode Island, Armenio is certainly doing just that.

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