Less than six weeks till graduation, TCOM students ready to tackle COVID-19

By Steven Bartolotta

Students Arm In Arm Unt Health Science Center Web

In just six-weeks, scores of students from the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine will be joining the ranks of medical professionals. Little did they know just a month ago they would be joining the profession at a time of worldwide crisis because of the outbreak of COVID-19.

The pandemic has put an enormous level of stress on medical communities around the globe, but TCOM students are ready to help in any way possible. As the world celebrates National Doctor Day, physicians are needed now more than ever.

“It’s actually been difficult for me to sit at home waiting for residency to start while my future coworkers are on the front lines putting their own lives at risk,” said TCOM fourth-year student Nicolet Finger. “For lack of a better word, I feel useless at home. I know I’m helping by practicing social distancing, but I want to help in the hospital.”

Finger will start her residency on July 1 at UT Health Science Center San Antonio, where Bexar County has reported more than 150 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and five deaths.

Physicians of all stripes and specialties are now working countless hours to help those suffering, but the strain on the system is immense. Medical schools in New York, one of the hardest hit by the outbreak, are graduating medical students early so they can help. The risk is real, and not just for the general public.

“I know that there is a very real possibility that I will be exposed to COVID-19 and maybe even fall ill,” said Finger, who will be practicing Physical Medicine and Rehab.

TCOM’s Class of 2020 President Kevin Honan, who begins his residency in Internal Medicine at UT Health Science Center in Houston, knows what he and his classmates are getting into.

“This pandemic is the kind of stuff we signed up to be a part of when we decided to go to medical school, and I do, indeed, feel a sense of urgency in contributing to the fight as a resident physician,” Honan said. “As far as handling the moment, I am putting my trust in my attending physicians and am going to try to learn and implement their teachings faster than I have ever before.”

The TCOM Class of 2020 will depart from HSC with four strong years of education, training and practical clinical experience to help prepare them for what lies ahead.

“We try to emphasize a multitude of skills for our students, such as leadership, emotional intelligence, teamwork and systems-based practice that help prepare them for the ever-changing world of healthcare,” said Ryan Seals, DO, TCOM’s Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs. “Through our curriculum, they have learned that they need to be competent, compassionate, innovative and life-long learners to engage in whatever challenges they encounter.”

As the world has hunkered down with local and state lockdowns in place, the next generation of physicians will be doing more than learning on the job. They will be saving lives on day one.

“It’s a very strange, almost surreal time to be working in the healthcare field,” Finger said. “There is noticeable tension and worry, but also incredible camaraderie and support for everyone walking the halls of the hospital.”

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