UTD fast-track medical program loses funding

Cristina Gonzalez, the coordinator of UT-PACT, said she wasn’t sure why funding for the program was cut. Photo by Julio Nieto | Mercury Staff.

The UT-Partnership in Advancing Clinical Transition program was discontinued after the Transformation In Medical Education initiative, which supports UT-PACT, did not grant additional funding.

Students in UT-PACT were able to graduate from UTD in three years, continuing their medical education with automatic admission to UT Southwestern. An announcement saying, “UT Dallas and UT Southwestern have jointly decided not to reopen future applications” for the program was posted to the website a few weeks ago. Normally, applications open Sept. 1.

Those currently in the program still have the same guarantees as when they joined, but new students will not be admitted in fall of 2017.   

The TIME initiative created and funded several programs similar to UT-PACT at other UT System schools. It aimed to create a new and innovative way to prepare undergraduates for medical school.

Cristina Gonzalez, UT-PACT’s program coordinator, said because the decision to cut grant funding from TIME was made at the UT System level, she wasn’t sure about the exact reasons behind the call.

“I was sad,” Gonzalez said. “I thought our current students are going to freak out. But once we were able to talk to them, they weren’t (stressed). You have a lot of emotions going through your head when a decision like that is passed down to you.”

Huy Do, a biology senior involved in UT-PACT, said he was shocked to hear about the program’s discontinuation.

“Everybody was pretty surprised,” he said. “It created a big hot topic in the pre-medicine community. (Even) students who weren’t in PACT were talking about it.”

Do said several UT-PACT members’ siblings were disappointed to hear about the closure, as they had hoped to join the program.

Thinking back on his time in the program, Do said his favorite part was the relationships he formed with the other members.

“I feel like because we all have a common interest and we are all together for seven years, we’ve developed really good friendships with each other,” he said. “I think that’s one of the things I really (liked) about the program.”

“We’re very proud of our program,” Gonzalez said. “(UT-PACT ending is) definitely not because it wasn’t a successful program. In fact, we really won’t know the success of this program until our students are practicing physicians.”

To make the program unique, Gonzalez said students would participate in physician training classes at UT Southwestern during the summer to further their education.

“It’s supposed to get them out into the workforce quicker because we’re shaving off a year of undergrad by getting them there,” Gonzalez said. “By the time they get to medical school they’ve already done some of the things that a typical medical student does.”

Gonzalez said that the existence of UT-PACT helped to attract students to UTD who might not have considered the institution before.

“Once they realized what kind of scholarships were available to them even though they didn’t get into UT-PACT, they still came here,” she said. “We really benefitted by getting a great group of students who may not have considered UTD as an option and now they’re here (and) they’re loving it.”

Although the program is winding down, Gonzalez said there is still a chance of a program similar to UT-PACT being created.

“But we don’t know what will happen in the future,” she said. “Perhaps it will resurface as something else and I think that’s why we’re not really saying that it’s gone, we’re saying that we’re no longer taking applications.”

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