UTSW Medical School hits milestone with 70th class

Outstanding faculty drew Shanica Pompey to UT Southwestern.

By Lin Lofley

When UT Southwestern Medical School welcomed its 70th class of first-year medical students in August, the school continued the long journey from its humble beginning in former military barracks near the original Parkland Memorial Hospital to today’s expanding campus.

The new class of 230 students – selected from nearly 4,000 applicants – found a much different and improved landscape from that of their long-ago predecessors. The Class of 2016 also found a place bustling with 21st-century technology and some of the brightest minds in American medicine.

“Our faculty ranks among the best in the country in the areas of basic sciences, clinical sciences, and in clinical medicine,” said Dr. Greg Fitz, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Provost, and Dean of the Medical School. “Medical students at UT Southwestern have access to training at some of the best clinical facilities anywhere, including Parkland Memorial Hospital, Children’s Medical Center Dallas, the Dallas Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and our two University Hospitals, St. Paul and Zale Lipshy.”

Those facilities drew Antonia Jacob, a first-year medical student assigned to the Medical School’s Fashena College. She earned her undergraduate degree in biology at Texas Christian University.

“I was very impressed with the clinical facilities and their relevance for students, as they rotate primarily through all these great hospitals. I felt that these sites would give me a firm foundation and superior experience during my clinical years,” said Ms. Jacob. “Also, I got the impression that the school takes care of its students, responds to them, and works incredibly hard to make their experience in medical school as positive and meaningful as possible.”

When the school opened in 1943 as Southwestern Medical College in 30,000 square feet of space, no one could have envisioned the expansive campus of today, covering 10.8 million square feet and growing. The number of full-time faculty that first year was nine, all teaching basic sciences. Today, more than 2,000 faculty members teach basic and clinical sciences and provide world-class clinical care.

The curriculum, of course, has advanced with the times. What ultimately draws students is the education afforded here.

“I came to UT Southwestern because I knew that I would receive not only a superb education, but a unique opportunity to learn from the nation’s leaders in medicine and research,” said Shanica Pompey, also of Fashena College, who earned dual degrees in biology and business administration at UT Dallas. “There is an atmosphere of excellence here that is truly inspiring.”

Indeed, the Medical School boasts faculty that include five Nobel Prize winners, 18 members of the Institute of Medicine, 19 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 12 Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigators, and one HHMI early-career scientist.

Dr. Steve Cannon, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education, said the new students came here with certain expectations in mind, with the Medical School standing ready to provide that stellar education.

Dr. Cannon, also Professor of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics, said the six academic colleges – including Fashena – are “major elements of the learning experience here. It’s become a tremendous advantage at UT Southwestern because beyond just giving the students a way to get together each week to talk about how to become a physician, they develop a personal connection with a faculty mentor to guide them. 

“The mentoring that students receive here doesn’t happen everywhere,” he said. “The continuity provided by meeting longitudinally over years with the same faculty advisor in the academic colleges is a tremendous opportunity for improvement of the educational experience.”

At a glance: Class of 2016 

Charles Kettlewell, Registrar and Director of Student Financial Aid, annually combs data on new Medical School students. Here are some of the facts he uncovered about the Class of 2016:

  • When they were growing up, 31 percent of the students spoke a language other than English in the home.
  • In addition to the United States, countries of origin for the students include Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Greece, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam. All are now U.S. citizens or legal residents.
  • Before arriving at UT Southwestern, members of the class had earned eight master’s degrees and three doctoral degrees.
  • Of the 230 new students, 10 percent are the first in their family to graduate from college.
  • The students range in age from 20 to 41.

Source: Office of the Registrar


Dr. Cannon holds the Patricia A. Smith Distinguished Chair in Neuromuscular Disease Research, in honor of Gil Wolfe, M.D. 

Dr. Fitz holds the Nadine and Tom Craddick Distinguished Chair in Medical Science, and the Atticus James Gill, M.D., Chair in Medical Science.