Fort Worth Health Science Expands Campus, Resources

By Pamela Bond

North Texas Daily

April 6, 2006

CLICK HERE to see a PDF of the newspaper page this story was printed on

CLICK HERE to see a PDF of the newspaper page this story was printed on

The first students who came to what is now NT’s Health Science Center (HSC) in Fort Worth graduated from the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (TCOM) in 1974. Over 30 years later, U.S. News and World Report ranked the college 28th out of the nation’s primary medical care schools.

In addition, the HSC now awards degrees in four different colleges and is emerging as a nationally competitive public health institution, one of nine in Texas.

“The ranking for TCOM, especially since it the 5th year in a row we have been in the top 50, reinforces the recognition of the excellence of our program,” Ronald Blanck, president of the HSC, said. “This is a great honor.”

The HSC awarded its first Bachelor’s degrees in physician’s assistant studies in 1999. Now the HSC offers Master’s degrees in physician’s assistant studies, a field which accounts for 8 percent of the center’s 1012 total students, according to the HSC’s 2004 Fact Book.

The School of Public Health, which offers Doctorate and Master’s degrees in Public Health first graduated students in 1995 and now has 23% of HSC’s enrollment.

The NT system bought TCOM in Spring 2005, which doubled the size of the HSC. The college offers Doctorate and Master’s degrees and post-graduate training to 49 percent of the HSC.

The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences’ first graduates walk the stage in 1994, and now 20 percent of the HSC earn their Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Certificate, Master’s degree or Doctorate in this school.

The growing enrollments – which have more than doubled since 1992 – mean that the HSC has had to expand structurally. The Center for Biohealth opened its doors to students in 2004, and the Master Plan calls for three more buildings.

The Master Plan’s advisory committee is interviewing prospective planners to design and construct the School of Public Health Education Building, the Research Building and the Alzheimer’s Research Building.

 “We’ve seen the campus grow with new buildings and new technology,” Douglas Mains, assistant professor of health management and policy, said. “I think the changes have all certainly been improvements.”

New buildings aren’t the only recent changes within the HSC. The center has added more classes and “changed their philosophy of education to accommodate student growth,” said Mains, including a Library Task Force that makes the library more accessible on and off campus.

“[These changes] provide more modern facilities, more modern technology,
updated classrooms with the latest technology,” Mains said. “We have Wi-Fi access throughout the Health Science Center.”

The new technology has aided professors in teaching classes and researchers in their studies. Students have also benefited from the changes at the HSC.

“It’s a great medical school where I will receive fantastic training,” Michelle Jones, third year TCOM medical student from The Colony, said.

The center has made recent improvements to the patient simulation lab, where students can practice on mannequins which simulate medical scenarios in real time.

“It’s just a great training tool for students to understand how the drugs that they’re learning work on the systems,” Jones said.

In addition, the center added patient care rooms, which come equipped with examining tables, flat-screen T.V.s and X-ray boxes.

“We use them for training in the clinical education classes, which is the class that teaches us how to be doctors,” Jones said. “They’ve improved those classes, they’ve improved the simulation lab, and they continually make improvements and updates to the growth anatomy lab, where the do the cadaver dissections.”

Research at the HSC has also gone through many changes recently. In the past six years, funding for research at the center has more than doubled, according to Thomas Yorio, vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

“In terms of investment, when you hire new faculty you give them money to start their research, buy equipment, and that sort of thing,” Yorio said. “So every dollar we invested in that, into faculty, we’ve got back, in terms of research dollars, about $4.61. In other words, it’s a good investment – for every dollar we put into our faculty, we’re getting increased research back. That’s true also for seed funding, small grants and pilot projects. These seed funds also returned about five dollars.”

The National Institute for Health recently awarded the HSC about $50 million in grants to fund research in aging and Alzheimer’s disease. As the population ages, this research may become more of trend in the future years, Yorio said.

“One of the other areas that we’re working on is regenerative medicine, in terms of rejuvenating parts that aren’t working functionally,” Yorio said. “And I think that’s a growing field, and one that we’re looking at.”

The HSC’s also studies key areas such as diabetes and its prevalence in the Hispanic population, the mechanisms and causes of Glaucoma and a joint cancer research group with UT Arlington.

“Many projects are interdisciplinary based, they cross-over,” Yorio said. “Typically, that’s what we’re trying to build is interdisciplinary research.”

To continue growing in these areas of research, HSC plans on bringing new, state-of-the-art technology that will enable the center to “be on the leading edge of research,” Yorio said.

The changes at the HSC – breaking technologies, more students and faculty, added classes and new buildings – have helped establish the HSC as a competitive school within Texas and the nation.

“I think we’re very competitive,” Yorio said. “Eighty-six percent of our funding comes from the federal government, which is a competitive process. Recently, we’ve received a $7.2 million health asperities grant. There were about 200 applications and only six were funded. I think we compete very well, nationally. We have excellent, world-renowned faculty, so I think we stack up pretty well.”

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