Author: Ghatalia Pooja
Institution: Molecular Biology
Date: September 2007
A spectacular, story-and-a-half sculpture by Dale Chihuly greets visitors entering the new Seay Biomedical Building on the campus of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. Rising from a pool of water like a mass of shining octopus tentacles, its 1,100 pieces of bright orange, blown glass are not only excellent art forms, but they may seem to represent the vicious nature of cancer that scientists in the building are trying to cure.
UTSW is home to four active Nobel Prize winners - more than any other medical school in the world and is the nation's top performer in biology and biochemistry basic science research. Similarly, Southwestern Medical School is among the country's leaders in terms of membership in other honorific scientific organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, the Association of American Physicians, and the American Society of Clinical Investigation.
"For any scientist in training, the significance of being around excellence cannot be overstated," said Dennis McKearin, Associate Dean of MSTP, the M.D./PhD. training program at UTSW. "Having available this kind of excellence, but at a relatively small institution, is invaluable for our students."
Indeed, the scientific vibration permeating the atmosphere has driven undergraduate students like me to conduct full-time at UTSW for over thirteen months, despite the tiring three-hour DART rail commute from UT Dallas to UT Southwestern and back.
"My favorite class of the first year was Biochemistry and the most fascinating topic was the development of a specific anti-cancer drug. Half a year later, I found myself working in the lab that first synthesized that very same drug. It's almost like cheering for the Cowboys, and then finding yourself on the practice field with the starters you admire so much," quipped Richard Voit, an MSTP student at UTSW.
The emphasis that UTSW places on scientific collaboration makes it excel. The curriculum at UTSW is geared toward training the competent and compassionate physicians of tomorrow while emphasizing the world-class research of today. Because of the strong research history at UTSW, the faculty strongly encourages students to participate in both clinical and basic science research during the summer.
"I chose UTSW for the strength of not only the clinical training, but also the basic science research that is available to all students," said Matt Wilkinson, a current MSTP student at UTSW.
The medical center encompasses UT Southwestern Medical School, UT Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, and UT Southwestern Allied Health Sciences School. These three coordinated but separate components interact creatively on the problems of human health and well-being. UT Southwestern trains more than 4,200 medical, graduate and allied health students, residents, and postdoctoral fellows each year.
"I compare the medical center to a wheel," said W. Plack Carr Jr., ex-president of Southwestern Medical Foundation. "The hub is the medical school, where you have the students, the teaching and research, and it radiates along the spokes: Children's, Zale Lipshy, St. Paul, Parkland, Scottish Rite and the VA Hospital. These institutions are vitally important and make monumental contributions to our community , and it is the school that holds them all together."
Recently, the St. Paul Hospital has been converted into UT Southwestern Hospital which provides even more opportunity for medical training and clinical trials. UTSW provides in-patient care to nearly 89,000 people and has approximately 2.1 million outpatient visits annually.
Medical students are taught the basic sciences and fundamental mechanisms of disease during the first two years, along with basic clinical skills. For the second two years, they pursue clinical courses in a variety of medical specialties, which allow them to integrate their basic knowledge with practical patient care at UT Southwestern's affiliated teaching hospitals and clinics. UTSW produces graduates who are problem solvers, not merely receptacles of knowledge
"The strength and accessibility of the faculty to students of all levels provides an excellent environment to foster the development of competent and caring physicians and scientists," Wilkinson remarked.
UTSW has designed many combined degree programs that allow students to specialize in other areas that prove to be great career combinations along with medicine.
One of four medical schools in The University of Texas System, UT Southwestern Medical School admits more than 230 students each year, and admission is highly competitive. By law, 90 percent of M.D. students are from Texas, assuring the state a consistent source of high-quality physicians.
The alternating hot and warm seasons of Texas go well with the warm and hospitable environment at UTSW one where smiling shuttle drivers will wait to greet you as you make a beeline for your laboratory located on the North campus at UTSW.
- By Pooja Ghatalia.