For Fort Worth Medical Students, Separate Paths Lead to Historic Commencement

Inaugural graduates of the Anne Burnett Marion School of Medicine at Texas Christian University were awarded their Doctor of Medicine degrees during TCU's 150th year celebration.

By Prescotte Stokes III

Photo Credit: Laura McCarthy, Nicole Wright

FORT WORTH (May 13, 2023) – For some medical students in the inaugural class of the Anne Burnett Marion School of Medicine at Texas Christian University, the path to becoming a physician was clear. For others, their journeys were shaped along the way.

No matter which path they took, it led to a historic graduation at the Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena at TCU on May 13.

The commencement marked the end of an eight-year educational journey for Grace Newell, M.D., who received her Doctor of Medicine degree and undergraduate degree from TCU.  

“I was so excited to celebrate with all my friends and classmates but it’s also bittersweet,” Newell said. “The last eight years at TCU has really set me up for success.” 

The graduating class of medical students, also known as Dorman Scholars, capped off their time at the Burnett School of Medicine at TCU with a celebratory commencement that featured fireworks at the end of the ceremony for TCU’s 150th year.

“This has been such a long journey through pre-med and now medical school,” Sameer Allahabadi, M.D., graduate of Burnett School of Medicine said. “This commencement was like our one last ride, and I was so happy to celebrate with my friends and my family.” 

The students received commemorative 150th diplomas and medallions. The entire graduating class of medical students matched into medical residency programs nationally and all across Texas.

“Our students have become innovative leaders and are prepared for the challenges and opportunities ahead of them,” TCU President Daniel W. Pullin said. “TCU has given them the life skills, education and knowledge to continue to their next step and make a difference here in Texas and beyond, in the global community. We congratulate them all and look forward to celebrating commencement weekend.”  

The Burnett School of Medicine opened in July 2019 with its inaugural class of medical students. The medical school’s unique curriculum with a focus on communication and the development of Empathetic Scholars® has uniquely positioned the school to radically transform medical education and improve healthcare for generations.

Shelby Wildish, M.D., who is a graduate of Burnett School of Medicine and received a bachelor’s degree at TCU, will be heading to Tufts Medical Center in Boston as a medical resident in Obstetrics & Gynecology.   

“What TCU taught me was how to care,” Dr. Wildish said. “That’s what I’m going to bring with me to Tufts. That’s what I’m going to bring into my career and that’s how I’m going to practice going forward.” 

Read more about some of the Class of 2023 graduates:

Shelby Wildish, M.D.

Hometown: Saint Andrews Parish (Kingston), Jamaica

Residency Program: Tufts Medical Center – Boston

Specialty: Obstetrics-Gynecology (OB-GYN)

Saint Andrews Parish in Jamaica, which is better known to most people in the world as Kingston, is a long way from Fort Worth, Texas. For Shelby Wildish, M.D., her hometown is where her dream of being a physician started.

“My mom has this picture that they framed when I was in kindergarten that asked, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ and I drew a doctor and wrote, ‘This is me in the future,’” Wildish said.

Her path to pursue that dream was paved by her older brother. He attended TCU three years before she arrived on campus as a freshman for her undergraduate degree.

“Coming back to TCU was coming back to family,” Wildish said. “I fell in love with TCU and came back to the medical school and have another family now.”

Wildish will be heading to Boston to start the Tufts Medical Center Obstetrics-Gynecology Residency Program. While she always knew she wanted to be a doctor, she didn’t choose a specialty until Phase 2 of the medical school’s Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship (LIC).

“LIC is such a unique opportunity where we rotate through all of these different specialties and you can compare them in real time,” Wildish said.

It wasn’t until she met Beatrice Kutzler, M.D., assistant professor at Burnett School of Medicine at TCU and OB-GYN at Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center-Fort Worth, that the light bulb went off.

“I saw myself in her and I saw what I aspire to be in her, and she happened to be an OB-GYN,” Wildish said. “Then, I started diving deeper into OB-GYN and the diversity it allows and the practicality of the specialty for the future I want.”

The future Wildish has always wanted has been supported by many mentors along the way, her immediate family in Jamaica and her family at TCU. It takes a village to accomplish anything in life and medical school is no different, Wildish added.

“This is my second time graduating from TCU and walking across that stage in the basketball arena, but it is a completely different sensation this time around,” Wildish said. “When I walked across the stage this time, it felt like they were all walking across that stage with me.”

Grace Newell, M.D.

Hometown: Louisville, Colorado

Residency Program: UC Health – University of Colorado School of Medicine

Specialty: Child Neurology

Match Day is a special day for medical students across the United States as they all learn simultaneously what medical residency program, they will be part of as physicians.

But the week leading up to Match Day at Burnett School of Medicine at TCU was different, according to Grace Newell, M.D.

“What’s special about our school is that we support each other and we’re not competitive among each other by any means,” Newell said. “We’ve known each other from day one and it’s a small group of us and we’ve grown close. It was a lot of hard work that led us all to that point.”

She grew up in the small town of Louisville, Colorado, which sits in between Denver and Boulder. Newell left her hometown eight years ago to attend TCU for undergraduate studies, majoring in Neuroscience. She hoped that one day she would return to her home state.

During the pivotal away rotations, where medical students spend a predefined amount of time during their fourth year of medical school at other institutions auditioning for residency spots, Newell traveled to UC Health – University of Colorado School of Medicine, hoping to make a good impression.

“It was my top choice, and I kept the faith and kept in touch with that program,” Newell said.

Newell landed a spot in UC Health’s Child Neurology Residency Program in the Department of Pediatrics. She credited The Compassion Practice® curriculum at the Burnett School of Medicine as one of the keys to helping her make a lasting impression.

The Compassionate Practice ® has ingrained empathy and treating patients with compassion in her approach to care, she added.

“Going into a field that’s going to involve a lot of hard conversations with family members about the prognosis and diagnosis of their child is something I think I’m going to be able to take with me to residency,” Newell said.

Sameer Allahabadi, M.D.

Hometown: Glendora, California

Residency Program: Baylor University Medical Center

Specialty: Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

Sometimes there are things in life that seem like it all comes down to one moment in time. Walking across the stage during commencement inside TCU’s Schollmaier Arena as a medical school graduate is one of those moments for Sameer Allahabadi.

“It’s weird because you go through this journey and you put so much effort in it prior to going to medical school,” Allahabadi said. “It all comes down to this one moment. It’s surreal.”

Burnett School of Medicine students are introduced to Patient-Centered Inquiry Based Learning Based (PIBL) where they work in groups to find solutions to medical problems. Those were the moments where the bonds among the Class of 2023 began to form, according to Allahabadi.

“Some of my early study sessions with my classmate Will Mitchell, we kept getting destroyed by questions we didn’t really know the answers to.  Working through this together are some of my most precious memories of medical school,” Allahabadi said.

Later, Allahabadi and Mitchell launched the Oncology Student Interest Group (SIG) at the medical school. Allahabadi always had an interest in the human muscular skeletal system and that was nurtured early on by his older brother who is an orthopedic surgeon.

However, he knew surgery was not the direction he would go.

“After a while, I kind of came back to physical medicine and rehab,” Allahabadi said. “Honestly, my first push into going into it was meeting the people in the specialty I felt right at home with my colleagues and future residents.”

He will be joining the Baylor University Medical Center Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Residency Program.The medical specialty combines his interest in the muscular skeletal system and neurology.

He credits the early exposure to patients through LIC with helping him see how the things can work together.

“At some point, I was managing five to six patients on my own and it created this independence in me that’s what the school does best as well as communication skills,” Allahabadi said.

Will Mitchell, M.D.

Hometown: Kansas City, Kansas

Residency Program: University of California-Irvine Medical Center

Specialty: Anesthesiology

Bonds with classmates, professional development with mentors and overall growth as a person have been the most impactful to Will Mitchell, MS-4 at Burnett School of Medicine at TCU during his time at TCU.

“The bonds we created as a class are going to be my best memories at TCU,” Mitchell said. “I also was with the same LIC preceptor Dr. Craig Dearden for two and a half years and he was really instrumental in my growth as a physician, and he helped me learn how to communicate and just get better at being a doctor.”

Mitchell will be at the University of California-Irvine Medical Center in their Anesthesiology Residency Program. Before choosing anesthesiology as his medical specialty, Mitchell thought he would go in a different direction.

A lot of his mentors that helped him get into medical school were anesthesiologists, he added.

“I almost came in like a teenager really angsty trying to go against the grain because it was all I had known,” Mitchell said. “I felt like there was more to medicine.”

He launched the Oncology SIG at the Burnett School of Medicine with his classmate Sameer Allahabadi as he explored other medical specialties. But as he went further along in his studies, he realized his true passion in medicine was pharmacology and physiology. Both are huge components of anesthesiology.

“I started kicking myself because for me to be the doctor that I really want to be I needed to give this a shot,” Mitchell said. “As soon as I did, I knew this was the field for me.”

Graduating from the medical school marks an end to Mitchell’s eight years at TCU that started in undergraduate studies.

“I think TCU really prides itself on training you up to be leaders in the national and global community,” Mitchell said. “It’s really exciting to be able to move on to the next step and know that TCU has prepared me to do exactly what I’m supposed to do.”

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