TCOM’s longstanding partnership with Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth nears milestone
Nancy Eder, RN, and Darry Meyer, DO were doing yard work and having a simple conversation between neighbors when an idea to help children turned into the beginning of a community partnership.
“Darry Meyer was my next-door neighbor at the time, and he was a student at TCOM,” said Eder. “One Saturday morning I shared with him that, we (Fort Worth Diocese) wanted to open up our sports program, but some of the students did not have a medical home. Most would just go to the ER for care.”
Soon, what started as talk among neighbors turned into the seed of a program that allows children and young people to receive sports physicals and wellness checks.
The Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (TCOM) and Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth recently celebrated 27 years of providing sports physicals and wellness checks for students. The program sees the students at the beginning of each new school year. About 3,000 children have been served through the program since its inception in 1995.
Dr. Meyer, who later graduated from TCOM, went to Dr. John Bowling with the idea to partner with the diocese and have TCOM provide the help.
Dr. Bowling, who at that time was the Director of the Central Family Practice Clinic at TCOM, loved the idea.
“I said, ‘Yeah, let’s put this together and we will volunteer to do the physicals for the students,’” said Dr. Bowling.
The program took off. The first year, TCOM students saw 34 children. The following year they saw 84 students. The number kept increasing each year.
Dr. Damon Schranz, an Associate Professor in Family and Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine and a TCOM graduate, took over the program in 2001. They have seen more than 100 patients each year. In 2019, they saw 177.
The program also allows the TCOM Chapter of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians to give back to the community.
“From the beginning we have always charged a very low fee with the proceeds being split between the ACOFP and the diocese,” said Dr. Schranz. “This year we gave back around $600 to the diocese that they can use to purchase supplies for their nursing clinics.”
Today, what started out as a small effort to provide low-cost sports physicals for students has grown into a program that provides wellness checks for children of all ages, along with education for their families. Each year Eder picks a day out in August for the clinic to be held and coordinates planning with Dr. Schranz.
“I had no idea that we would continue doing this after the first few years, but the program has been so well received by the families and Dr. Schranz and the students are so great with the families,” Eder said.
Giving back has been the underlying theme of the partnership and program for 27 years. Many of the students and children who attend the clinic have little or no access to physicians.
“Families with limited resources face many challenges,” said Emily Lin, a second-year student at TCOM, who served as the volunteer coordinator for the event this year. “Children from these families often have less extracurricular opportunities than peers from families with access to more resources, resulting in decreased character and skill developmental opportunities. Providing low-cost sports physicals removes a barrier for children from participating in extracurricular as many athletic programs require a completed sports physical before the child is allowed to participate.”
At this year’s clinic, 130 students from 12 different private and public schools located within the diocese received services.
These clinics also allow TCOM students to put into practice their training.
“I’m proud of our students and their ability to respond to the needs of our community with this program,” Dr. Schranz said.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 104 students received sports physicals and wellness checks in 2020. In 2022, the clinic will provide its 3,000th physical and wellness check.
“This program is another example of how TCOM has always been involved in helping the community and getting the students to understand the importance of community service,” Dr. Bowling said.
Lin said she gained valuable lessons from the experience.
“It was humbling to learn that I was able to participate in a partnership between TCOM and the Fort Worth diocese that started before I was born,” said Lin. “Despite the challenges of safely navigating COVID-19, we were able to adapt and adopt safety practices that allowed us to continue holding the clinic. I loved hearing how the partnership started from a vision to make sports physicals more accessible to having almost 3,000 patients seen in the past 27 years.”