HSC creates alternative licensing exam test site for medical students

By Steven Bartolotta

TCOM Examinees

Medical students overcame a lot in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Learning shifted to remote, rotations grinded to a halt and, perhaps most problematic, prometric test sites nationwide shut down in the middle of March with no immediate plans to reopen.   

Osteopathic medical students, like those at Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (TCOM), rely on these test sites to administer their essential licensing exams, COMLEX Level 1, 2CE and 3. These exams are required to continue the matriculation process through medical school and are ultimately necessary as a four-step medical licensing process to practice.  

In May, plans were to re-open some testing sites, but the primary site in Bedford — where over 90 percent of TCOM students test — could not open due to a fire. On top of that, the sites that did re-open had far fewer seats due to social distancing measures, creating an enormous backlog of students waiting to take the test.   

“Normally, all of our students complete their COMLEX exams during June and July, but these unique circumstances turned COMLEX scheduling on its head and resulted in hundreds of TCOM students unable to find a reasonable exam date,” said Rebel Jones, The University of North Texas Health Science Center’s Director of Testing and Evaluation Services.  

It wasn’t just a problem for TCOM students. COVID-19 displaced many osteopathic medical students at schools around the nation, including those trapped at home in North Texas. Faced with no test sites locally and finding the Dallas site full, the only other options were sites in Wichita Falls, Waco, Austin or Houston. Students would have to cover their own expenses for travel and hotels and some couldn’t even get a slot at a test site date until October.  

“Taking the exams is stressful enough, but the inability for students to schedule an exam date that met their needs became an additional stressor that they didn’t need,” said TCOM Dean Dr. Frank Filipetto.  

Dr. Filipetto and Jones devised a plan. They began discussions with the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners (NBOME) and Prometric to make TCOM and HSC an alternate testing site.  

The plan was approved and setup started in June. The collaboration was extensive and the work was hard, but on July 31 the doors opened and the first COMLEX exams were administered to 12 students on the HSC Campus. One of the first 12 students to take their exam was an osteopathic medical student from Rocky Vista University COM still in Texas due to COVID-19.   

Thus far, 78 students have taken their COMLEX exam at the site, which will remain open until the end of September.  

“We are extremely thankful that our HSC Team and TCOM were able to fulfill this need for not just our own TCOM students but for all medical students in our area who were experiencing significant barriers in scheduling their licensing board examinations,” Dr. Filipetto said. “I thank NBOME for entrusting us with the responsibility to deliver these licensing exams on our campus.” 

The sentiment of relief coupled with an abundance of thanks from students has been significant.  

“I had a great experience at TCOM’s Satellite COMLEX testing site,” TCOM student Alex Reeb said. “By far the best experience I’ve had at a testing center. Kudos to the staff responsible for setting this up under pandemic circumstances. This was a great example of going the extra mile for students.” 

I felt as though it provided an amazing testing environment that emphasized my safety and security,” said fourth-year TCOM student Zachary Coston. “The staff that helped conduct my examination were very professional, informed and attentive.  I enjoyed this satellite testing location more than any designated testing center I’ve ever used.” 

Without TCOM and HSC providing an alternate site, the results for students could have been catastrophic, but now osteopathic students in the region have one less reason to worry about their exams.

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