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Trauma care

Pre-Health Professions Institute students connect coursework to the real world as new emergency room interns.

TCU students Harley Reid, Morgan Macaulay and Jeff Musgrave observe Dr. Robert Gullinese ’97 in the emergency room at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital.

Trauma care

Pre-Health Professions Institute students connect coursework to the real world as new emergency room interns.

Paramedics wheeled in a 30-something man with a stab wound to the chest. Blood poured from a gash in the left ventricle of his heart. Nurses rushed to stanch the flow. Nudging the first responders out of the way, one doctor barked: “Tell me what you know.”

Troy Gurney huddled with his fellow students in the doorway of the emergency room at the Fort Worth hospital. The unfolding medical crisis was another summer day for the new emergency room interns from TCU’s Pre-Health Professions program. It was another revealing, front-row view of trauma care at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital.

Gurney, a senior biology major dressed in pristine purple scrubs, watched blood pool under the examination table as doctors cracked open the man’s chest to resuscitate his heart.

“It was a controlled chaos. You could tell it was frantic and fast-paced but not disorderly by any means,” he said. “In our biology classes, we don’t see anything like that. It definitely is real life, and I now want to be a part of it even more.”

Gurney and eight other TCU pre-health students participated last summer in a new 12-week internship program. The internship allowed them to shadow emergency room physicians.

“It’s one thing just to observe, and it’s a different thing altogether to actually go and actively participate in the care,” said Dr. Robert Gullinese ’97, an emergency-room physician at Harris Methodist. He heads the new internship program with Matt Chumchal, director of the pre-health institute at TCU.

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Troy Gurney ’15 said the internship made three years of textbooks come to life.

“[Dr. Chumchal] asked me about a year ago to start thinking about programs for the community because he wanted to be innovative and give TCU students an opportunity that’s not available at other schools,” said Gullinese. “We have such a high demand for that [extra help] in the ER, so I figured we could basically employ them all in the ER as a pilot.”

TCU has a long-standing relationship with Harris Methodist. The university sends dozens of nurses to the hospital each semester. However, Gullinese and Chumchal wanted more opportunities for the pre-health students to receive hands-on learning in a hospital setting.

Eventually, Gullinese came up with and suggested a long-term internship for pre-health students rather than a one-time class visit or weekly clinical. The idea was daily, around-the-clock exposure to the demands of the profession. It was a new concept unlike any other program among Big 12 Conference schools.

“It was a no-brainer that we had to figure out a way to make it work,” Chumchal said. “We have a clinical program already, so this added some incremental steps. TCU has been really great at supporting the pre-health program and our pre-health students, and then we also have great students that can help us make these programs a success.”

Nine students participated in the 2014 pilot internship. The students received scholarships from the Center for Career and Professional Development’s intern program.

“It was really rewarding to see that doctors and people who are in the profession want you to be a part of it, want you to join their profession,” said Gurney. “Anyone on the medical team, they were all willing to teach you, talk to you and just make your experience better.”

“If you’re passionate about medicine at all, this will cement that or it will give you a better insight into what medicine is actually like.”
Troy Gurney '15, one of nine TCU Pre-Health Institute students who participated in a 12-week internship program at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital

Gurney said the summer internship at Harris Methodist made three years of textbooks finally come to life. “You would just shadow [a physician] around, and you got to see all the details,” he said. “They didn’t ever shy away from anything. Anytime a [serious] trauma came in, we were right there by the bedside.”

While the interns witnessed treatments to gunshot wounds, mugging victims and attempted suicides, they also learned about the emotional side of medicine. “You get to see the patient interactions and the families coping with it, so it’s a true picture of what medicine is going to be like,” said Gurney, who hopes to attend medical school and become a doctor.

Despite the long hours, difficult procedures and emotional challenges, Gurney said the summer internship program enhanced his and his fellow interns’ desire to pursue a career in the health professions.

“If you’re passionate about medicine at all, this will cement that or it will give you a better insight into what medicine is actually like,” said Gurney.

Chumchal said one goal of the program was to give students a firsthand look into what it would be like to work in a hospital on a daily basis, and he hoped the students would give back to the hospital as well.

“I knew it was going to be great for the students, but what I’m really pleased with is that they were actually able to not just be a burden on the doctors,” Chumchal said. “The physicians were able to use these students to help them deliver paperwork or pick up information or whatever needed to be done.”

Gullinese said feedback from physicians confirmed the positive experience. “It really was very well received,” he said. “The physicians became just a little bit more efficient, and in the ER, even just a little bit goes a long way.”

Nowadays, Gullinese and Chumchal are thinking about how to enhance the program. “We’ll continue to do the Harris internship as long as we can, and it’s something we would love to even expand,” Chumchal said. “We would love to have a menu of summer internships that students could choose from.”

Gurney said he’ll remember the medicine he learned, but the caring attitude of mentors might be even more lasting.

“I want to be that kind of doctor who wants to educate, who wants to help, who wants to have a teams of members and pass my knowledge onto that next generation,” he said.

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TCU Pre-Health Professions students spent 12 weeks as emergency room interns at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital for a pilot program. First row (left to right): Ali Medders, Harley Reid, Blake Wiggins. Second row: Troy Gurney, Laurel Gardner, Morgan Macaulay, Jeff Musgrave. Third row: Dr. Elliot Trotter, Dr. Thomas Luton, Dr. Robert Gullinese ’97.