Despite the pandemic, interest in the medical field is growing
With the COVID-19 pandemic, it was feared that interest in the medical field would decline. Physicians and other healthcare workers have faced unprecedented challenges. Instead, students answer the call of medicine.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, applications to medical school have increased by 18%. The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) Class of Medicine of 2025 pledged their commitment to the profession by receiving their white coats at the White Coat Ceremony on Sunday.
The white coat is one of the most visible symbols of the healthcare provider. Steven L. Berk, MD, executive vice president of the TTUHSC and dean of medical school, said that for many students, the dream of donning the white coat begins the day they are accepted into medical school.
“These students have been working very hard for a long time,” Berk said. “They sacrificed a lot to go to medical school. It’s a celebration for them and for their parents, but it’s also a time to remind them that although it’s a wonderful job, it comes with many responsibilities. We have probably learned this more than ever in the age of COVID-19. When they put on their white coats, they are also committing themselves to the medical profession, with all the responsibilities and professionalism that this requires.
The TTUHSC School of Medicine had more applicants than ever before.
“This is a competitive student body,” said Felix Morales, MD, associate dean for admissions at the TTUHSC School of Medicine. “Five thousand students applied and of those, we interviewed 1,000. We are proud to have the top 180 of these students coming to join our Medical School family.
Berk said that with the pandemic, the School of Medicine has learned to focus on character as well as academic achievement.
“I think it reminded us even more, it’s more about who they are and then what they know. It’s more about their commitment to medicine than the grade of organic chemistry they have gotten in. And it’s about resilience, not just getting good grades,
but be able to meet all the challenges that may come before them as a doctor. So I think more than ever, we looked at those traits of character, resilience, and commitment that we never had before.
This average GPA for band members is 3.8. Fifteen students joined the Family Medicine Accelerated Track program, 14 students will graduate with a joint degree in medicine and business with the MD/MBA program, 10 with the joint degree in medicine and public health MD/MPH, one with the MD/JD program and 2 students will work toward a dual MD/Ph.D. degree.
Berk said that traditionally, the white coat ceremony welcomes medical students into the profession of medicine where they all take an oath promising to always put their patient first, even those who are vulnerable, and above all, that they will begin a career of lifelong learning.
“This pandemic has served as a reminder of the need for physicians to also be teachers of the public, to have great work ethics, and to be committed to doing their best every day,” Berk said. “The white coat represents that commitment.”
Along with their coveted white coats, medical students received their first stethoscopes from Alumni Relations. TTUHSC-branded stethoscopes are sponsored each year by past donors and friends of TTUHSC to provide every student with their first stethoscope.
Students come from 49 different schools, including Princeton University, Tufts University, UCLA, University of Washington, Emory University, and Baylor University. Ninety of the students are from the West Texas area, including 55 from Texas Tech University.
“Not everyone has just graduated from university; some have had other jobs like EMTs, athletic trainers, science teachers and elementary school teachers,” Berk said. “And these students had a huge interest in service, many of them volunteering in the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a very comprehensive and very competitive class.