Persistence helps HSC graduate student meet academic challenges as he prepares for medical school   

By Diane Smith

Alexander Frangenberg Web

Alexander “Alex” Frangenberg’s dream of becoming a doctor started at age 4 when his little sister cracked her head open.

After about four hours filled with fear and worries, two-year-old Chloe Frangenberg returned from emergency care with four staples on her head. The older brother remembers confusion, relief and a sense of wonder at how doctors were able to fix his sister.

“Who did this? How were they able to do this?” he said, quoting his 4-year-old self.

Now, at age 24, the HSC graduate is on his way to medical school after confronting academic challenges. He graduates with a master’s degree in the Medical Science program offered by the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at The University of North Texas Health Science at Fort Worth. He is among HSC’s Class of 2020 that includes 730 graduates for the 2019-2020 (fall, spring and summer) academic year.

HSC graduates represent fields of study from the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (TCOM), Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, School of Public Health, School of Health Professions and UNT System College of Pharmacy.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, commencement ceremonies were moved to a virtual platform. HSC commencement ceremonies are set for 9 a.m. June 6.

After the virtual ceremonies, Frangenberg won’t be leaving HSC because he starts medical school at TCOM in the fall. He heads to medical school knowing it is OK to ask for help when school gets tough and during a global health crisis.

“I’m very excited and ready to move on to medical school,” he said. “No matter what, I am ready to hit the ground running.”

‘What it takes for medical school’

Frangenberg grew up in Austin, where he graduated from McNeil High School in 2014. He graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a degree in psychology in 2018.

Applying for medical schools proved to be more challenging than he expected. He said he thought interviews went well, but he didn’t hear back from schools.

“It was a matter of realizing what the next step was,” Frangenberg said.

Frangenberg said he decided to apply for HSC’s Medical Science graduate program.

“This program could give me the ability to demonstrate that I do have what it takes for medical school,” he said.

But when classes started last fall, Frangenberg hit another wall. He got a 64 on his first biostatistics test.

“That was super unmotivating,” he said, adding that he sank into self-doubt. “I didn’t even know if I should be here.”

Frangenberg reached out for help at HSC’s Career Center. He needed to change his study habits so he could move from Bs to As. The medical science program was rigorous, demanding six to eight hours of study each day, he said.

“Alex came to us early on in his HSC academic career/journey,” said Lydia Negron, Career Consultant at HSC’s Career Center. “He was transparent with the barriers and challenges he faced.”

Negron said Frangenberg was open and receptive to commentary, feedback and recommendations. In the end, the student reached his objective by following strategies outlined at the Career Center.

“He was open to thinking outside the box in considering the proposed recommendations and stretching his mindset to look at all possibilities,” Negron said.

‘Looking for ways to help’

The inspiration to become a doctor came with the feeling of relief that Frangenberg felt as a child after his sister’s head wound was treated.

He also is driven to help the community – a calling he said is shared by friends and colleagues at HSC who stepped up to fight COVID-19.

“Everyone I have talked to is looking for ways to help,” he said. “If you help, things will be better for everyone.”

Even before the health crisis hit North Texas, the graduate was part of team of students helping other students maintain a good spiritual, mental and physical well-being while tackling rigorous academic programs.

Frangenberg is a member of the MIND Mental Health Podcast at HSC. This spring semester, the group produced a series of podcasts, including one dealing with how to cope with the pandemic and keeping mental well-being while in isolation.

He also volunteered at one of the free COVID-19 testing sites operated by HSC volunteers. The testing sites were a collaboration among the City of Fort Worth, Tarrant County Public Health, HSC and UT Southwestern Medical Center.

This summer, Frangenberg found work taking the temperatures of construction workers. He said he felt like he was making a difference while earning money. The experience also offered a window into the lives of people who had to show up for work during social distancing, he said.

In May, Frangenberg was gearing up for the HSC virtual graduation ceremony. The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on commencement was “disappointing,” but he said it is the safest option.

Frangenberg’s personal celebrations will include Zoom with friends and family. His graduation comes as one sister graduates from high school and another one from Angelo State University. Amid the rapid changes underway, Frangenberg received a surprise visit from his family on May 16 – the day that would have been his actual graduation ceremony.

“It was a nice treat – especially considering the circumstances,” he said.

Frangenberg said he graduates knowing what it takes to confront challenges.

“If things aren’t working, you have to find another way around it,” he said, adding: “In the end, despite the journey being a little bit longer, everything worked out.”

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