Second-year medical students at TCU and UNT Health Science Center School of Medicine in Fort Worth have started a new phase of their learning by studying inside hospitals – in the middle of the pandemic.
They aren't treating COVID patients directly for their own safety but are learning about the virus just by being in a real hospital setting.
"COVID has really opened my eyes into medicine and into a view that I never imagined,” said Connor Rodriguez of Cypress, near Houston.
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Rodriguez is currently studying pediatrics at Cook Children’s Hospital.
He and his fellow students are on three-week rotations, studying internal medicine, OB-GYN, pediatrics and surgery at a number of different hospitals.
"Being in medical school during this pandemic and seeing it all has been -- it's been very interesting to see it from a medical standpoint,” Rodriguez said.
Fellow student Faria Khimani agrees.
Like her classmates, Khimani, of San Antonio, decided to become a doctor long before anyone had heard of COVID.
"As cliché as it sounds, helping people is the biggest thing,” she said.
Khimani studied recently at a Mansfield hospital and practiced on a robot that helps with surgeries.
She's seeing first-hand how the virus is changing the way doctors and patients interact.
"We're in a whole new era where COVID is there and you have to wear a mask all the time and all they see is your eyes,” she said.
Associate professor Dr. Samir Nangia coaches the students -- in a year nothing is normal.
"They're still getting the bread and butter experience that a medical student would get outside of COVID but I think COVID is, unfortunately, going to be here for a bit,” Nangia said.
The students said learning in a hospital setting during the pandemic will help teach them to confront other public health challenges in their future careers even after the coronavirus is gone.
"If anything, this is such a huge learning experience the way this virus is transmitting and the fact people who are carriers, you just don't know who has it at this point,” Khimani said.
"I don't think COVID is going anywhere for a really long time,” Rodriguez added. “I think it will stick with us."
The students’ hospital rotations started Oct. 12 and will end Dec. 11.
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.
**County totals below include all 32 North Texas counties, not just Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant.