Bud Kennedy

UNT Health, TCU talking M.D. school, but it’s all on the QT

UNT Health Science Center nurse Mindy Ford gives a Carter-Riverside High School student a free meningitis shot in the medical school’s Pediatric Mobile Clinic
UNT Health Science Center nurse Mindy Ford gives a Carter-Riverside High School student a free meningitis shot in the medical school’s Pediatric Mobile Clinic Star-Telegram archives

Fort Worth’s medical school leaders always say the primary difference in a “D.O.” and an “M.D.” is the printing on the diploma.

So why not add three letters: “M.D., TCU”?

Hoping to offer both degrees, but blocked by other schools, University of North Texas Health Science Center trustees may partner with Texas Christian University.

Trustees will meet Monday to discuss making UNTHSC an unprecedented one-stop shop for degrees in medicine, pharmacy, biomedical sciences, public health and health professions, and along the way giving TCU its first medical school in 97 years.

Late Thursday, UNTHSC President Michael Williams invited local leaders to a Monday announcement at Bass Performance Hall involving “an important addition to both institutions.”

Since 2009, UNTHSC leaders have pitched the idea of offering the near-identical allopathic and osteopathic medical degrees side-by-side in classes, saying costs wouldn’t change. They raised $21.5 million locally to help with the launch.

The plan was unlikely this close to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. But TCU’s cash and clout can help sidestep UT’s block, with help from budget chief state Sen. Jane Nelson and state Rep. Charlie Geren, who represent UNTHSC.

UNTHSC graduate students and TCU nursing students already share some graduate classes.

Both schools’ publicists spoke cautiously.

UNTHSC’s Jeff Carlton emailed about a “longstanding practice … to establish relationships” and that the school would “explore options.”

Holly N. Ellman of TCU emailed about a “history of collaboration” and a chance to “further explore potential partnerships.”

UNTHSC is already working with the publicly funded JPS Health Network to create a physicians network, Acclaim.

For TCU, the idea is more than a century old.

TCU added a medical degree in 1911 in a deal with the Fort Worth School of Medicine, which had been left behind when Fort Worth University became Oklahoma City University.

Former Dean Colby Hall’s 1937 book, History of Texas Christian University: A College of the Cattle Frontier, describes the arrangement as “mutual courtesy and exchange of prestige, without either department in any way assuming the financial obligations of the other.”

According to a 2013 TCU Magazine story, the downtown medical school ran out of money in 1918. The remnants went to what was then Baylor University and is now Baylor College of Medicine.

This time, TCU can come up with the money.

Bud Kennedy’s column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538

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