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Saturday, April 10, 2021

Economic development: Fort Worth’s medical school moves forward

Fort Worth is officially the home of the nation’s newest M.D. school

First, the people putting together the nuts and bolts will take a little time to celebrate the news that their medical school in Fort Worth has won preliminary accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education. School and city officials

Then it’s back to work.

“Then we’ll set our sights on the next iteration of accreditation and on attracting biotech and pharma to this community around the pillar of a medical school and growing GME [graduate medical education] in the same fashion that we’re doing medical education for medical schools, and that is changing the model in how we train residents,” Dr. Stuart D. Flynn, founding dean of the new TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine, said in an interview following the announcement on Oct. 19.

The next step for our medical school would be to receive provisional accreditation, which should be decided in 2020. School officials expect a full accreditation decision would come in 2023.

It’s not his first rodeo. Flynn came to Fort Worth from the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix, which he also started.

There is much to be done to prepare for the school’s first class of 60 medical students, who are expected in July.

The potential impact on Fort Worth is significant.

Starting in 2030, the annual economic impact of the medical school is estimated to be $4 billion and the school is expected to generate about 31,000 jobs for North Texas, according to a Tripp Umbach study.

“We’ve already done a lot of work on our curriculum. The next thing is, we will continue to evolve that. We will continue to develop partnerships. We’ll get ready when we’re told we can to start to allow young people to apply,” Flynn said.

The curriculum focuses on developing “empathetic scholars,” physicians who are able to “walk in a patient’s shoes” and who excel in the science of medicine. In addition, students will be prepared for future advances in medicine and will be life-long learners.

Flynn says that asking patients want they want from their physicians draws an almost uniform response: slow down, look me in the eye and communicate.

“If we don’t teach that, you can be really smart but my patient isn’t really engaged with me,” Flynn said.

Normally, staff at a start-up medical school might be concerned about whether the best and the brightest will apply.

But the new School of Medicine has an advantage.

H. Paul Dorman, chairman and CEO of Fort Worth-based DFB Pharmaceuticals, has donated the cost of tuition for the first year for the inaugural class, who will be known as the Dorman Scholars.

A next step is gaining membership in the Association of American Medical Colleges, which will provide access to the American Medical College Application Service or AMCAS.

That would let the School of Medicine begin accepting applications in November. The school is awaiting approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Flynn is fond of talking about curriculum, noting that it is more difficult to make changes in an existing medical school.

“Every one of our medical students in their traditional clinical year, rather than doing that training in the hospital, which is where it’s always occurred and it’s much easier to deliver, they will do the bulk of that training – about 80 percent – one-on-one with a preceptor,” he said.

Two things happen from there and then everything cascades, Flynn said.

“One is you have a one-on-one with a faculty member. That’s an unbelievably valuable thing. If you’re my student, I know what you’re good at, I know what I need to help you with. You also get to learn for me. We have a relationship that goes on for 10 months,” he said.

“Also critically important is every one of our students, from these seven preceptors per each team, we’ll give a very small number of their patients to our students.”

Students will be able to develop a relationship with the patients.

“And that’s how you maintain the empathy at the end of the day,” Flynn said.

An example: A student would be able to follow a pregnant patient through to birth.

In a more traditional setting, a student would see all the stages – three trimesters and a labor and delivery. But it would involve four different patients.

“Now that patient knows me, and I know that patient. That is where you develop this relationship of physicians and their patients bonding. That’s absolutely essential,” he said.

There also will be a four-year communications curriculum so the medical students will know how to communicate with patients.

In an interview with Fort Worth Business Press CEO magazine in 2016, Flynn discussed the ancillary impact of a medical school.

About 85 percent of discoveries in the health sector occur within 20 miles of an academic medical center, Flynn said.

The UNT Health Science Center with its associated osteopathic medical school located near Fort Worth’s Cultural District already has demonstrated that in association with entrepreneurial organizations such as TECH Fort Worth, IDEA Works Fort Worth, Cowtown Angels and others.

“This is the perfect environment. It’s relatively pristine. There’s some great biotech already here, but plenty of capacity to grow it,” Flynn said. “I would strongly suggest that that’s going to be a major attraction for biotech and pharma. It’s a major desire on our behalf and presumably on the city’s and Tarrant County’s behalf because it’s a major economic driver.”

That will dovetail with Fort Worth’s plans to create a Medical Innovation District in the city, something that was recommended as part of the city’s economic development plan unveiled last year.

Texas Christian University and the University of North Texas Health Science Center joined together in July 2015 to form the new allopathic medical school.

Classes will be held on both the TCU and UNTHSC campuses, and students will rotate through hospitals and clinics in the Dallas-Fort Worth region.

“The entire City of Fort Worth proudly stands behind this collaborative and innovative medical school,” Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said at the announcement (what announcement?). “We are excited to not only watch as this school grows and becomes part of our community, but as it transforms our city and medical community.”

TCU Chancellor Victor J. Boschini Jr. said the announcement marks a great day for three institutions — TCU, UNTHSC and Fort Worth.

“The School of Medicine has taken the lead on transforming our universities and the health care community. We are proud and thrilled to partner with UNTHSC in this endeavor,” Boschini said.

“The School of Medicine allows us to offer one of the most futuristic and comprehensive health care educations in the nation,” UNTHSC President Michael R. Williams said. “Together with TCU, we are creating a health care environment and a cutting-edge curriculum that will define and produce the health care providers of the future that our community needs and deserves.”

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Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

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