Fort Worth M.D. School Students Arrive
The TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine students brought “a new energy” to the community as they arrived for Welcome Week events.
FORT WORTH – The historic, inaugural class of the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine brought “a new energy” to the community as they arrived for Welcome Week events.
“I think there’s something so special about being first,” said medical student Shanice Cox. “I think I will be able to shape a new energy in this school and the pathway we’re going too. So, I’m really excited.”
With a curriculum designed to transform medical education, this visionary medical school will focus on creating physicians who are compassionate leaders prepared for the future.
The Class of 2023 kicked off their first week at Texas Christian University with Founding Dean Stuart Flynn, M.D., who engaged with the 60 students in a private session.
The incoming students said the hourlong session gave them a safe space to ask him questions. “It was an incredible experience. I can tell that he truly cares about this medical school and he seemed so excited to work with us and transform health care,” said medical student Connor Rodriguez.
Afterward, the energy and excitement among the students was visible as they made their way to the third floor of the Brown-Lupton Union to take their official school photos. Although a few of the students had met each other during Second Look Weekend in April, for many, Welcome Week was the first time to meet their classmates.
“It was really exciting to see who got to come back,” Cox said. “They’ve all been so pleasant I feel like we’ll mesh really well as a class.”
The School of Medicine faculty and staff got their first opportunity to mingle with the students and their families during a lunch on the TCU campus.
“I’m so excited to meet them; it’s been such a long journey to get to this day,” Shawn Wagner, Business Operations and Facilities Manager for the School of Medicine said.
Lots of lively conversations between the students, their families and the faculty and staff filled the grand ballroom of the Brown-Lupton Union.
One conversation in particular had student Mckenna Chalman all smiles. She spoke with one of her mentors, Terence McCarthy, M.D., the chair of Emergency Medicine at the School of Medicine.
“I’m trying not to focus on only being an emergency room doctor, but I worked as a Scribe for Dr. McCarthy so I’m so excited to have someone I look up too as a part of my formal medical education,” Chalman said. “My mom was also a nurse and worked in pediatrics so I’m trying to keep my options open…being in this room with so many accomplished physicians, I just feel like the sky’s the limit.”
Flynn made his first address to the entire School of Medicine faculty, staff and student body during the lunch.
As the students leaned in and looked toward the podium, Flynn commended the students for being risk-takers. He also reassured them that their medical training at the School of Medicine will have them ready for the changes in health care they will face as physicians.
“We are preparing you all to be the type of physicians we will need by 2030,” Flynn said. “You all will be pioneers in medical innovation and technology. You’ll be able to communicate effectively and compassionately with your patients and lead by example in the ever-changing health care industry.”
Introduction to UNTHSC
On Day 2, University of North Texas Health Science Center President Michael R. Williams, M.D., D.O., and Provost Charles Taylor, PharmD spoke to the students at breakfast
Williams told the students to be committed to helping reclaim the human element in medical care.
“Where else do you walk into a room, meet someone and within five minutes tell them everything about yourself with the trust that this person will take this information and help create a better life for you?” said Williams about the doctor-patient relationship. “It is a sacred relationship.”
Taylor echoed the same sentiment. He told the students that their four-year journey will be distinctive because of the School of Medicine’s promise to infuse innovation and teamwork into the curriculum every step of the way.
“We are here to improve the human condition,” Taylor said. “Help people live healthier, better lives. It’s such a meaningful, powerful reason to get up every day.”
Media from all across the Dallas-Fort Worth area came to UNTHSC to hear some of the stories students had to share about getting into medical school.
“It was exciting, and it really made us feel special,” Chalman said after speaking with Fox 4 News. “We all knew choosing this medical school was going to be different and to see all the enthusiasm the community has for us just makes us want to go out a do our best to contribute to the community.”
A community welcome
Fort Worth community members got a chance to meet the inaugural class at the Colonial Country Club on Wednesday morning.
Many prominent members of the local medical community were in attendance and the students were given a celebratory, ‘howdy,’ along with words of encouragement from Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price.
In the afternoon, student were introduced to the school’s communications curriculum called The Compassionate PracticeTM.
This curriculum was one of the reasons Shanice Cox chose the medical school.
“This dream has been in the makings for a long time for me,” Cox said. “When the staff came to Hampton University to give one of their talks about this I was just blown away. I said to myself, ‘I have to be here,’ this is honestly the type of place that I’ve been praying for.”
The Compassionate Practice™ is an interdisciplinary curriculum designed to build skills in awareness, listening, inquiry and engagement to foster exceptional connections between physicians and their patients, their teams, and their communities. It uses theatre pedagogy to train doctors to improvise, build authentic connections, and take responsibility for their audience.
It will also use journalism and narrative medicine techniques to train doctors to speak in a language appropriate to their audience’s understanding, Evonne Kaplan-Liss, M.D., assistant dean of narrative reflection and patient communication.
“I was happy to see how engaged and interested they were and valued the importance of communicating with compassion,” Kaplan-Liss said. “Their attention to detail and getting it right in all the different scenarios we gave them was impressive. I told them we will train them to be great doctors no doubt about it. But everything is changing in health care and you can tell they are different than traditional medical students. They’re here because they understand the value of communication in medicine.”
A pep rally
The Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena at TCU was decked out in purple, yellow, orange, green, red and blue. Those colors represent the six Learning Communities the students will be divided into with two Physician Development Coaches leading each community.
Dozens of School of Medicine faculty, staff and family members of the students waved colorful pompoms underneath pulsating strobe lights and clouds of smoke as an announcer introduced the coaches and their cohort of students.
“We didn’t expect any of this,” Connor Rodriguez said with a smile. “It’s so special to be a part of the inaugural class. The energy here is so great and we are just ready to hit the ground running and meet our patients and start building those bonds and relationships with them.”
The goal was to let the students know that getting into medical school and their arrival in Fort Worth is special, according to Danika Franks, M.D., assistant dean of student affairs at the School of Medicine.
“For some of them I think it kind of blew them away,” Dr. Franks said. “I think they enjoyed the fact that we want to celebrate them. We really want to celebrate these communities that we’re forming.”
The PDCs are all physicians from the Dallas-Fort Worth area that have been certified as coaches by the International Coach Federation.
This innovative and unique student experience is designed to foster a coaching relationship that will contribute toward student professional identity formation while providing an additional layer of support toward the student’s academic success.
“We want the students to understand the social mission of this initiative and how we’re going to relate to the Fort Worth community,” Franks said. “The program is here to support the students and help them grow. It really just kind of mirrors how much we believe and want to empower the students to embrace and be a part of their community.”
By Friday morning, things had calmed down as the students headed to Frog Camp, a daylong student retreat where they had the chance to reflect on the week. The students met with their PDCs and began to settle into their roles as medical students.
“It really eased us into beginning medical school and gave us a good idea of what to expect next week,” Chalman said. “It calmed our nerves and just showed us how excited everyone is to have us here.”