A Junior Medical School for Fort Worth’s future doctors


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By Alli Haltom

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The inaugural class of 60 students at the planned TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine isn’t expected until summer 2019, but more than two dozen eighth graders have already gotten a peek of life at the new school.

Twenty-seven students from Fort Worth ISD schools recently participated in Junior Medical School, a new week-long program that allows them to discover medicine, empower personal achievement and develop a network of peers and mentors through hands-on medical activities.

Students logged time in the anatomy lab, learned emergency medical procedures and participated in dissection activities.

The program was made possible by the support of local physician volunteers and the JPMorgan Chase Foundation’s workforce development grant through UNTHSC.

“Our goal was to create an environment that excites students and inspires them to explore the possibilities of higher education through activities that many won’t have the opportunity to experience until they reach college,” said Tara Cunningham, EdD, Associate Dean of Admissions and Student Diversity for the TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine.

Students from J.P. Elder Middle School, Young Men’s Leadership Academy and Young Women’s Leadership Academy were recommended by their respective principals to apply for the program. The camp simulated a college experience, with nearly all activities taking place on the two university campuses. Participants received acceptance letters to the program in May, as well as their own set of scrubs presented during closing ceremonies.

They spent the week learning from local physicians who volunteered their time to teach classes and lead lab activities. Junior Medical School campers dissected animal eyes, practiced their suturing skills with the aid of simulated skin pads, learned the proper way to scrub in for procedures and regularly engaged with their college student counselors.

Students were also able to get a behind-the-scenes hospital experience, thanks to Texas Health Resources. At the Clearfork campus, students suited up and scrubbed in to an operating room to try their hand at a simulated knee replacement. Staff volunteered to assist the students, giving them a tour of the tools used in orthopedic surgery.

At Texas Health Harris Methodist, students spent time in the Amon G. Carter Medical Simulation Training Center, learning from emergency medicine residents from JPS Health Network about how they react in trauma situations.

“They got to experience technology they normally wouldn’t get to see at this point in their education,” said Adam Jennings, Director of Medical Simulation at JPS. “We conducted an ultrasound, they got to draw fake medications in a controlled environment, did chest compressions. They would never get to do any of this in a real-life situation, but the simulation lab makes that experience possible.”

One student, Diego Montalvo, was especially impacted by the simulation center.

“To see an emergency room in action is surprising,” he said. “I didn’t think you’d need that many people to save a person’s life.”

The week concluded with a graduation ceremony held on TCU’s campus. The medical school plans to continue connecting with these students throughout high school, exposing them to career opportunities in the science and medical fields and equipping them for their future endeavors.

“We may not have our own students yet, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start engaging with the community and giving back now,” Dr. Cunningham said. “Investing in local students is a priority for our school and we want to give back to the community that continues to support us in so many ways.”

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