Fort Worth medical school welcomes second class of students

The TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine welcomes 60 new medical students who bring energy and excitement to their virtual Welcome Week.

By Prescotte Stokes III

FORT WORTH –  A fully virtual Welcome Week was not what the 60 new medical students at the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine expected when they envisioned their first day of medical school. However, the excitement was still there for all of the students.

“Just being immersed in the community and I finally get to see how the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine the family really is,” Antonio Igbokidi, a first-year medical student at the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine said. “It was everything I could’ve imagined.”

The students made unprecedented history as some of the first medical students across the country to begin medical school in a completely virtual environment when orientation began on Monday, July 6. Welcome Week is an exciting program designed to introduce students to the people, places, programs and more at the Fort Worth medical school. The students will begin their academic year on July 13.

“We’re excited to welcome a new generation of physicians that have chosen medicine even under the extraordinary circumstances the COVID-19 pandemic has presented. Medical school has always been challenging and now more than ever the role of becoming a physician will be to understand how technology can assist you in treating and communicating with patients effectively,” said Stuart D. Flynn, M.D., founding dean of the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine.

On July 6, the students attended the Zoom conference call at 8:30 a.m. and the session began with a video from the inaugural class of medical students welcoming them with playful messages of encouragement about beginning their journey into medicine.

After a brief applause from the new medical students, they were greeted by all of the members of the Office of Admissions and Outreach team.

“Congratulations to all of you,” said Carlos Tapia, executive director of Admissions and Enrollment Operations at TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine. “This is the finish line from application to pre-med to now.”

For the next hour and a half, the students began introducing themselves and showing off an item during the session. The introductions were dynamic and wide-ranging in their interests and hobbies from skydiving, to woodworking, music, cooking, candles, art and collegiate athletics.

“I was surprised by a lot of the similarities and the amount of collegiate athletes,” said Danielle Moore, a first-year medical student. “It was so interesting to see all these great accomplishments that everyone had. It’s exciting to be in this group.”

Giving the students a space to share things about themselves highlighted the diversity among the group, Igbokidi added.

“We really got to see the personality of all of our classmates as well as the diversity of our classmates,” Igbokidi said. “But somehow someway we all came to this spot. It was just a very humbling experience.”

The new group of students represented more than half of the states around the United States. The students closed out the morning session with a private conversation with Dean Flynn to begin the culture of student-centered feedback and open dialogue.

Later, they got their first opportunity to see what their week-to-week workflow would be like as medical students during the Academic Overview, Assessment and Evaluation session. The students were joined by Stephen Scott, M.D., M.P.H., the senior associate dean for educational affairs; JoAnna Leuck, M.D., the assistant dean for curriculum; and Marcel Kerr, Ph.D., the assistant dean for assessment and quality improvement.

The students were given an in-depth overview of the academic calendar, milestones and educational program objectives for Phase I of the curriculum.

“We know that learning doesn’t stop even after medical school and we want to make sure that we are reinforcing that. It’s about developing these core values.” Dr. Scott said. “We’re doing this in a way that’s efficient and when you’re at someone’s bedside you’ll remember it. It’s sticky and stays with you.”

The goal of the session was to give students an understanding of how and when their learning would be assessed; their role in giving and receiving feedback for courses and faculty; and comprehension of the medical and behavioral competencies.

Although it was a lot of information to absorb, the feeling of being a medical student for the first time was exciting for MS1 Sam Sayed.

“It’s exciting. The fear of the unknown wasn’t there it was more the happiness of the unknown,” Sayed said.

The students also learned how to access the various learning management systems where they will access academic materials, resources and more.  During a Q &A session, the students also got some advice from Dr. Leuck, who also is an Emergency Medicine physician at Texas Health, about working on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In these darkest times and not knowing what’s coming next, it’s my training that helps me,” Dr. Leuck said. “We want to provide this to you so when you’re practicing you have something to hold on to.”

It was moments of insight and golden nuggets of dialogue that reaffirmed Igbokidi’s choice to study medicine and choose the Fort Worth M.D. School.

“Now more than ever it is important to have empathetic physicians who understand the magnitude of the times that we’re living in,” Igbokidi said. “And physicians who are intentional about serving not just the greater population but marginalized and underrepresented communities who desperately need that help. I think the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine does a good job in preparing students to be able to champion that role that will be necessary in the days to come.”

On Tuesday, the Zoom meetings continued with an interactive session with Danika Franks, M.D., the assistant dean of Student Affairs. The session provided discovery and an overview of the student handbook, safety, and the Professional Resource Officer. The students also spent time reviewing the specific policies at the medical school.

On Wednesday, the students spent time, virtually, with the team from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and participated in MED Safe Zone training.

“The School of Medicine is committed to the precept that diversity and educational excellence go hand-in-hand.  We believe that diversity and inclusion are key drivers of institutional excellence. Inclusive Excellence is linked to our pursuit of excellence in our research, clinical and educational missions to meet the needs of the students, faculty, residents, staff and the communities we serve,” said Lisa McBride, Ph.D., the assistant dean for Diversity and Inclusion at the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine.

The virtual session intended to build confidence in caring for patients, mentoring and communicating with colleagues and allies from the LGBTQ+ community, while fostering reflection on topics such as inclusion, discrimination and heteronormative privilege.

The support from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion team is one of the biggest reasons first-year medical student Lauren Moore chose this medical school.

“I am a part of the LGBTQ community and seeing that on the secondary (application) when I was applying to the school, I felt seen,” Moore said. “When I came to the interview, I was impressed by how focused the school is on diversity and inclusion and I knew I would be comfortable here.”

The MED Safe Zone training was one of the most impactful sessions for MS1 Ilana Zago.

“It was really incredible to not only get the education around LGBTQIA+ community but also actionable steps on how we can actually be an ally for that community.” Zago said. “I walked away with strategies that I wanted to take away with me as a future physician and incorporate into my practice.”

On Thursday, the students closed the week with the Office of Student Affairs revealing the students’ Physician Development Coaches and Learning Communities.

In 2019, the big reveal  featured a DJ, pyrotechnics, dozens of screaming fans, neon color lit tunnels and a smoke strobe light filled Ed & Rae Schollmaier Arena on TCU’s campus. This year, the Learning Communities reveal was as a virtual  NFL Draft style show on Facebook Live.

The 2020 SOM Learning Communities Draft did not disappoint as it began with an action-packed, short film showing the PDCs considering their newest draft picks. During the FB Live, the Fort Worth M.D. School enlisted an announcer to introduce each student to their new team and was even the featured on the local news in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

While the theatrics were appreciated by the new students, first-year medical student Kyle Simon, likened the role of the PDCs to the support he received during his time in the U.S. Military.

“One of the unique aspects of military service is once you join you always have a mentor to help guide you through,” Simon said. “When I learned about the Physician Development Coaches and that whole model, I felt that I was coming into something that I was familiar with. I also felt like this would be the right school to help develop my skills and my ability to relate to patients. Also, the opportunity to bounce ideas and bounce challenges off of somebody who has been there in the past.”