TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine’s Dean on What Makes the School Unique

Stuart D. Flynn and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price celebrate the school’s preliminary accreditation (photo courtesy of TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine).

TCU and UNTHSC’s new medical school’s first class will begin their training next summer, and plans to do things differently than most medical schools have done in the past. From flipped classrooms to an emphasis on communication and empathy, Dean Dr. Stuart Flynn is leaning on his experience opening a medical school in Arizona to bring a different kind of medical education to North Texas. The school will begin with its first class of 60 students in 2019.

Why do we need another medical school?

UT Southwestern Medical School is in Dallas and the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine is already run by the University of North Texas in Fort Worth, so is another school necessary? Flynn noted that Fort Worth is now the 15th largest city in country, and with the physician shortage in the state of Texas, more doctors are needed. He also described how medical schools can be boon to local economies, with most medical discoveries occurring in a short radius around medical schools. His hope is that the school attracts biotech, pharmaceutical companies and other medical industries to help drive the economy in the area. “It’s not a zero sum game with Dallas,” Flynn says. “There is plenty of room to collaborate and elevate healthcare in the community.”

What will be unique about the curriculum?

Surprisingly enough, most medical students today do not go to class. The lectures are recorded or streamed online, and most students watch them at home, study, and then come in for a test every few weeks. Participating in discussions, working collaboratively, and other educational activities are few and far between. The new school at TCU is going to skip that step and implement what is called a flipped classroom, where reading and videos are watched at home, and students come to class for discussions and application sessions.

In addition, most of the rotations in a normal medical school are spent in a hospital, but most physicians do not work in a hospital setting after their residencies. In this program, medical students will spend 10 months during their clinical year in ambulatory settings like clinics, where most of them will end up working anyways. “We are going to train where physicians are going to practice,” Flynn says.

Lastly, Flynn described a four-year “compassion curriculum,” to help medical students be better communicators and be more empathetic. He wants his students to learn how to listen without interrupting patients, which Flynn says isn’t taught enough in traditional medical schools. They will also use the admissions process to screen for effective communicators with role playing and evaluating interactions. “The reality is they aren’t taught how to communicate,” Flynn says.

Who is Stuart Flynn?

Flynn is the founding dean for the new school after serving as the founding dean for the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix, where he took what had been a place for the University of Arizona (in Tuscon) students to do their last two years of medical school and expanded it to become a complete four-year school. He taught pathology and surgery at Yale University School of Medicine before that, where he was also the director of the residency program, oversaw the school’s curriculum and was a founding member of The Society of Distinguished Teachers at Yale.