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Texas Tech HSC School of Medicine awards white coats after considering record number of applicants

Published: Aug. 1, 2021 at 6:48 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Despite a pandemic that has forced health care workers to make so many sacrifices, even their lives, the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center School of Medicine considered a record number of applications for the Class of 2025.

The lucky 180 first-year medical students who were selected received their white coats on Sunday.

“We didn’t know for sure if there would be anyone that still wanted to be a physician,” Dean of the School of Medicine Dr. Steven Berk said. “In fact, we had more applicants than we’ve ever had before. The COVID-19 challenge really suggested to these students that this is a career that they wanted: a commitment to patients, a commitment to medicine, a great way to spend their lives. We’re so proud of them.”

Dr. Berk said the 180 students were selected from about 5,000 applications. They come from 49 different schools with an average GPA of 3.8. However, he stresses that they have great character along with excellent academic accomplishments.

“They were chosen as medical students more for their character than for their chemistry grade,” Dr. Berk said.

One of the students getting their white coat during a traditional ceremony at Buddy Holly Hall was Rachel McLelland. It’s not the first uniform she’s worn for Texas Tech University. She was the Masked Rider, which she describes as a high honor.

“I met so many people and I experienced so many amazing things,” McLelland said. “It’s so exciting, people to represent Tech now in a different way, to put on the white coat with the HSC patch and now represent Texas Tech University as a doctor, as a future physician. We just hope to make them proud.”

While she is keeping her options open when it comes to the path she’ll take, McClelland’s current goal is to be an orthopedic surgeon. She says she was inspired by the physician who cared for her grandfather, a United States Air Force helicopter pilot.

“It really took a toll on his body,” McClelland said. “When I was in high school, he met with an orthopedic surgeon who ended up doing a full ankle reconstruction on him. It really gave him his life back. He was able to go on camping trips with us. He could take grandkids. We went to Mexico and Canada and he got to really live life with us. I saw the impact they had. I just was so excited to have that honor to be able to help other people get their life back.”

Dr. Berk told KCBD that some of the students graduated college several years go and have already served in the medical field as nurses, EMTs, scientists or professors themselves. He said it’s a great pleasure to see them all take this new pledge.

“The great significance is that four years from now, 180 of these students will become excellent physicians,” Dr. Berk said. “That’s what West Texas needs. That’s what the school is here for: to meet the workforce commitment of this area. These new medical students are going to do it with great dignity.”

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