The inaugural class at the new Texas Christian University and University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth begins training the country's newest doctors today.
"It kinda of feels surreal," said student Erica Brown. "It hasn't hit me yet. I still can't believe it, but I'm sure once we have our first exam, it will."
Many see Brown and this inaugural class of 60 as as pioneers in the future of medicine.
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"I''ll say that they are pioneers. We have recruited a class with no data, with no results. They're taking risk with us and they'll partner with us over the next four years to become part of this medical school and help us grow," said Tara K Cunningham, EdD, MS Associate Dean Admissions and Student Diversity.
"This is not a clone of some other school, and say let's do it this way. We need to change how physicians' practice. And that starts with their medical school training," said Stuart Flynn, M.D., the dean of the new school.
It took four years to get to this point.
First, TCU and UNT Health Science Center agreed to partner to form the new medical school.
Then, after accreditation last winter came the mad dash to recruit the first class.
Diversity was intentional, and Cunningham points to the numbers to show success.
"60% are women; 58% of them represent one or more of our diversity domains, and that's a combination of Hispanic, African American, LGBTQ community and those from socio-economically different backgrounds; first generation students," Cunnimgham said. "So we're very proud our class represents the community in that respect."
Also mission critical was to find the students who understood and embraced the school's mission - to train empathetic scholars.
"From day one, literally, throughout all four years, students will build a toolkit of how to be an empathetic scholar, really listening to their patients, leaning in and being present when present with their patients," Cunningham told NBC5. "And, and we believe that's what made us stand out to these 60 students."
"In in our entire recruitment process, we made it clear to them that empathy was critically foundationally to how we want to train them," explained Flynn.
"I set my eyes on the school. I researched the school and got to know the faculty and staff as much as possible and I found, it was match," Brown said.
And, the focus on empathy sealed the deal. "They're gonna train us to be a good doctor, no doubt, but that was something that was attractive to me about this school."
And, Brown, was a perfect match as well:
- a desire to move to Texas and perhaps stay after training;
- a bachelor's in biology; and a master's in public health;
- and, a life-experience that led her to this point.
"I witnessed a family friend who suffered a gunshot wound to the head during an armed robbery. So that was at 7. And, for me, I couldn't understand how her body was able to recover and how she led a fairly normal life after that injury with the bullet still in her brain. And that piqued my curiosity, my interest in medicine," she said.
The empathy this new M.D. school seeks to inspire in the class of 2023 may already be present.
"It's a phenomenal opportunity to build the training components for the next generation of physicians that can really look to 2030 and 2040, and that's a big deal," Flynn said.