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TCU-Health Science Center in historic collaboration

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Two Fort Worth universities announced today they will collaborate to create a new medical school for MDs in the city.

Texas Christian University and the University of North Texas Health Science Center said they have entered into a memorandum of understanding to create the new medical school.

According to UNT Health Science Center officials, about $25 million from private donors has been pledged to the new medical school, while TCU has pledged to use $50 million from its endowment to support the plan.

“This academic collaboration represents the first step in the establishment of a premier MD school and is one of the most ambitious our university has undertaken to date,” said TCU Chancellor Victor J. Boschini Jr. “Blending a medical education with liberal arts helps shape tomorrow’s physicians as ethical leaders who are skilled in interpersonal communication and nimble thinkers who thrive as part of a team to treat patients in ways that consider the whole human condition.”

The plan will take shape quickly, according to the two schools. The new MD school expects to accept its first students in 2018, with an initial class of 60. Plans call for a full enrollment of 240.

“A new MD school will give Texas more high-quality practitioners in an era of dramatic physician shortages,” said UNTHSC President Michael R. Williams. “Our students will become physicians who focus on their patients and learn to deliver care as part of larger health care teams.”

The UNT Health Science Center’s Board of Regents voted unanimously for the proposal this morning, while TCU’s Board of Trustees approved the plan on June 30. The MD school is expected to increase educational and research opportunities at the two institutions. Using existing educational, research and training facilities, along with faculty at both TCU and UNTHSC, start-up costs for the new school should be minimized.

A dean will be named jointly by TCU and UNTHSC and will report to provosts at both campuses. The MD school plans to begin accepting applications in the fall of 2017. Students in the MD school will be enrolled in both institutions.

UNTHSC, located in Fort Worth’s Cultural District, currently has an osteopathic medical school, along with graduate schools for pharmacists, physician assistants, physical therapists, public health experts and biomedical scientists.

Moving forward, a medical school management committee including representatives from both universities, along with the new dean and provosts from both institutions, will oversee development of the new school.

Because the school will be private, no state approval will be required, however TCU and UNTHSC officials said they will immediately seek accreditation for the school.

At least initially, graduates from the school will show a degree from TCU, not UNTHSC. In 1993, then-state Sen. Mike Moncrief sponsored legislation saying no MD degree could be awarded from UNTHSC. Williams said he hopes to have that legislation reversed in the next legislative session in 2017.

The UNTHSC has been pursuing the idea of an MD school since 2009 when a Fort Worth Community Study Panel issued findings that strongly supported the need for an MD school in the city. Part of the reason for the need is that there is a shortage of physicians in Texas, with the state currently 45th in the U.S. for physicians per capita. Texas will have a shortage of almost 6500 primary care physicians by 2030 to care for a rapidly growing population, according to UNTHSC officials.

However, the push for a MD school has been met with resistance from osteopathic physicians affiliated with UNTSHC. The facility’s Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine was established in 1970 in Fort Worth in a renovated bowling alley. It has proven successful and was recently ranked as one of the Top 50 Medical Schools in the nation for primary care, according to U.S. News and World Report.

All medical students, DOs and MDs, complete the same educational program as many MDs, but DOs also study wellness and osteopathic philosophy.

At the same time, for the state to graduate more physicians, there is a need for more residency programs for medical school graduates. Many medical school graduates must leave the state for their first-year residency training and they often fail to return to the state, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

The TCU/UNTSHC MD School leadership will work with TCOM leadership to find ways to develop new Graduate Medical Education residency programs at area hospitals, according to the two schools.

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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