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With the start of the fall semester, UTSA welcomed its second cohort of Facilitated Acceptance to Medical Education (FAME) students. The new group of 20 will follow in the footsteps of their older peers, who pioneered the FAME program during the fall semester of 2013.

“It is a privilege to be surrounded by students who are passionate about what they do,” said Lisa Michaels, a first-year FAME student. “We have a great dynamic, as if we’re all a giant puzzle and fit together perfectly.”

After years of planning, The University of Texas System adopted a Transformation in Medical Education (TIME) initiative, a multi-institutional plan within the University of Texas System that will integrate innovative educational programs for future physicians. In response to TIME’s mission for the development of “a program designed to increase the effectiveness of medical education while shortening its duration,” FAME was created through the partnership of UTSA and the Health Science Center in San Antonio (UTHSCSA).

“Applicants like the fact that they are guaranteed admission to UTHSCSA as long as they succeed in the academic and professional aspects of the program,” stated FAME Co-Director Dr. Hans Heidner. Students are expected to maintain a GPA of 3.5 or higher, demonstrate a competitive score on the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section of the MCAT and reflect the competencies taught indirectly through patient interactions, classroom lectures and contact with physician and medical school mentors.

FAME students will earn both a Bachelor of Science and a Doctor of Medicine degree in an abridged period of seven years, instead of the traditional eight. In order to shave off one year and still meet degree requirements for Texas graduates, FAME’s curriculum has been interwoven with core classes to form a functional degree plan.

For example, FAME students will take genetics as a team-taught course, in which a professor from the medical school will co-teach the class and supplement textbook material with real-life applications to medicine.

Dr. Hans Heidner explained that for FAME students, “Three courses typically taught over two semesters were redesigned in order to cover the same amount of material in a single semester.”

Despite taking two years worth of chemistry in their first year of college, FAME student performance has been above average, as measured by the American Chemical Society Standardized Exam.

Though FAME students did not have the laboratory experience and the full year duration of the course, two FAME students scored above the 90th percentile on the exam.

“Faculty and administrators I’ve talked to are impressed with the FAME performance in both (general and organic chemistry) classes,” said Dr. George Negrete, FAME organic chemistry professor. “This has really been a demonstration of how much highly motivated students can learn.”

In addition to intensive study of the sciences, FAME students also focus on the humanitarian aspect of medicine — patient care.

“I’m learning about how I would act with a patient, the ethics in health, (along with) the basics of Biology. I’m learning how to be a doctor and all of that is priceless,” said Michaels. “I’ve entrusted part of my future with a great program that I can’t go wrong with.”

As full members of the Honors College, all FAME students will graduate with at least General Honors after taking 22 semester credit hours of Honors coursework.

“All of the FAME-specific courses count toward their Honors requirements,” explained Dr. Ann Eisenberg, associate dean of the Honors College. “(FAME students) are encouraged to take advantage of other opportunities as well.”

During the 2013 spring semester, FAME students expressed interest in college experiences that will contribute to their professional identity. Three FAME scholars are pursuing Leadership Honors by applying for the Leadership Challenge Program or the Archer Fellows Program, and several plan to graduate with Highest Honors by doing research.

“The first cohort of FAME Scholars has become so involved on campus that they have set the bar high for the new cohort. We are excited about the contributions they are making to UTSA and San Antonio,” stated Eisenberg.

“I don’t doubt that my FAME years will be some of the best in my life because of the myriad of phenomenal opportunities UTSA offers,” concluded Michaels.

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