Sixty first-year medical students in Fort Worth will begin their medical school journeys online Monday.
Antonio Igbokidi of Little Rock, Arkansas said he has always known he wanted to help people. It was during his sophomore year of college when he realized he wanted to become a doctor.
Igbokidi is one of 60 incoming students in the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine’s class of 2024.
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“I started working as a medical assistant for a family medicine doctor for a very long time in undergrad and he taught me so much. He provided me with mentorship and so then I knew that was the route,” Igbokidi said. “I really wanted to be able to help people like my mother, as well as kind of be a representation for young people like who never seen a doctor that looked like them and never knew the possibilities that were out there.”
The medical school in Fort Worth is a private-public partnership between Texas Christian University and the University of North Texas Health Science Center.
Dr. Danika Franks is the assistant dean of student affairs for the medical school. The novel coronavirus pandemic has forced instruction and methods to be pivoted, Franks said.
“The great thing about it is we’re not the only ones. Medical schools across the country have been grappling with, 'How do we continue to train physicians?'" Franks said. “Classrooms in traditional medical schools typically have classroom-related activities and those actually translate fairly well into using platforms such as Zoom. We’re actually able to conduct and relay our flipped classroom style, which means we have a lot of self-directed learning.”
While some instruction can be done remotely, Franks said some of it will eventually have to be in person.
“Certain things related to clinicals, going into the anatomy lab, we’ll look at those things on a case-by-case in very small, limited group numbers for our students,” she said. “On Monday, we will start with them in a remote capacity and then as it becomes clearer and we’re able to safely engage our students in clinical environments, we will do so.”
Franks said one of the challenging aspects of online instruction is staying connected to students. The school has plans in place to reach out to students individually in order to touch base with them, even if it’s not in person.
As part of their orientation week, students were introduced to their "learning communities." These groups of students are led by two staff members, dubbed as their coaches for the next four years.
“It is absolutely a way for us to keep the students connected and know that we care,” Franks said.
Students like Igbokidi said they never imagined they would start medical school online, however, they also find it fitting as the future of medicine.
“It’s all about the dynamic of it. It’s about having resiliency and roll with the punches and however something may present itself, we figure out ways to deal with it,” he said.
Fellow incoming first-year student Ilana Zago, originally from Southern California, said the learning communities are already helping.
“I’m already forming relationships with my classmates and I’m excited to keep doing that, even if it’s via Zoom,” Zago said. “I’m so excited to see everyone in person when it’s safe to do so.”
She added starting medical school during the pandemic was a "tremendous honor."
“It’s very clear that our communities need health professionals fighting for them, fighting for their families. I think it’s a tremendous honor to be able to enter medical school at this point and to be able to follow in the footsteps of those who are already dedicating their lives to help and support our communities,” she said.
The students will begin their instruction on Monday, July 13.