60 students start at TCU and UNTHSC’s new medical school

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On Tuesday, July 9, the 60 students attended a ‘Welcome Week’ seminar that explained to them what the curriculum would be like. The students also received their identification cards the same day. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto.

In preparation for Monday’s first day of classes, the 60 students in the new joint medical school between TCU and the University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) arrived on campus July 8 for a welcome week of orientation.

During their welcome week, students of the nation’s newest medical school met faculty, staff and participate in orientation activities.

The two universities, who have been working since July of 2015 to start a school of medicine, have a primary goal to train physicians to be “empathetic scholars” who excel at one-on-one communication as well as new technologies and medical science. 

In a press release, Stuart D. Flynn, M.D. M.P.H, the dean of the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine said that this training will teach the students to “lead by example in a healthcare industry that needs their skills and leadership.”

Evonne Kaplan-Liss, M.D., the assistant dean of narrative reflection and patient communication, said to be an empathetic scholar means students will be trained to be “excellent doctors who are lifelong learners and communicate with compassion.”

To do so, the school developed a cross-department curriculum that contains journalism and theatre tactics along with their science courses. A significant piece of the curriculum is known as “The Compassionate Process,” which is a repeatable process that will be used to “connect and disconnect when needed,” said Dr. Kaplan-Liss. 

The team that developed “The Compassionate Process” is made up of a group of people who come from many different backgrounds, including journalism, theatre and English.

“This is a unique team that medical schools don’t have to teach this very interdisciplinary, well-rounded topic,” Kaplan-Liss said.  

Val Lantz-Gefroh, the artistic director of the new school of medicine, said they modified common theater processes like improvisational theater for the medical field for this training.

These exercises will be used to teach students to be able to listen, adapt and respond to patients, then move to the next patient and do it all over again.

“To have the ability to let go of one thing and go into another fresh as if it were the first time requires some technique,” Lantz-Gefroh said.

Students at the School of Medicine’s Welcome Week seminar got to know each other while they waited for their next speaker to present. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto.

Lantz-Gefroh also said that while theatre and journalism seem to be completely different fields at surface level, they are both about the story at the core. Journalists find the story while actors tell the story.

The curriculum team believes to be able to do both allows a doctor to find a story, then be able to respond and connect with a patient. 

“Our entire school is very multidisciplinary, which allows us to flip the entire idea of education on its head, and making people collaborate in ways that I’ve never seen before,” Val Lantz-Gefroh said. 

Although The TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine is just beginning, the inaugural class was held to high standards, not only with academics but with character as well. The average GPA for the pilot class is 3.62, as well as an average score of 508 on the MCAT, which is above the national average of 500.  


Fifty-eight percent of the inaugural class self-identifies to belong to one or more of the three domains defined by the school, which are race/ethnicity, orientation, and financial background.  Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto.

“We had no magic number, no intentional outcome, but intentional efforts to bring in a diverse, but also qualified class,” said Tara Cunningham, associate dean of admissions and student diversity at the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine. “Academics is the entry, but once you pass that threshold, academics kind of fades to the background, we put more attention on the personal and professional readiness.”

The admissions process includes an audio recorded essay that allows the “admissions team to dive into those personal characteristics. 

Sixty students is a small class, but because of the immense resources used to put students into a year-long experience different from other medical schools we cannot grow beyond 60 without limiting students from our clinical experiences,” Cunningham said.

Shanice Cox, a Notre Dame graduate and a member of the inaugural class at the medical school, has an interest in gynecology.

Cox said she chose dual school between TCU and UNTHSC because of “the small but diverse class size.”

“I also wanted to be in a place that I could meet so many different patient populations, as well as the unique feeling the faculty that recruited me and TCU gave me,” Cox said. “We also have a high tech anatomy lab that has everything on a screen kind of like a hologram, but I also think doing clerkships your first year is really cool and only one of the things this school does that is unlike any other.”

Med school students at pep rally
The School of Medicine students were introduced one-by-one at the inaugural pep rally on July 11. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto

The TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine held an inaugural pep rally on July 11. The celebration consisted of a drum line, music and introduction of the 60 students planning to attend the School of Medicine.

Students will begin their studies Monday, July 15. For more information on the medical school, click here.