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College of Science & Engineering


Pre-health through the ages

As TCU wraps up its sesquicentennial festivities, one of its prominent institutes hits a major milestone.

For 110 years, the Pre-Health Professions Institute, part of TCU’s College of Science & Engineering, has prepared students for post-graduate schools through rigorous academic curriculum, extensive connections with the regional healthcare community, one-on-one academic advising from committed faculty mentors, and a wealth of student activities. As a significant point of pride, TCU’s Pre-Health Professions program boasts above an 80% acceptance rate to medical school, which is twice the state and national averages. Matt Chumchal, director of the Pre-Health Professions Institute, says, "The Pre-Health Program has been an integral part of the TCU community for over a century, and we are proud to celebrate our 110th anniversary the same year TCU turns 150." 

While medical school is the most common destination for Pre-Health graduates, it’s not the only one. Alumni pursue a variety of health professional programs and eventually begin careers as dentists, physician assistants, veterinarians, optometrists, pharmacists, and podiatrists. As part of TCU’s sesquicentennial celebration, the University highlighted significant Horned Frog alums with a series of hand-painted murals in cities across the country. The murals were part of TCU’s national brand campaign “Lead On: Celebrating 150 Years of TCU,” and they epitomize the university’s mission and pledge to create leaders who are conduits for the greater good. Three extraordinary health care professionals that were the product of the Pre-Health Professions Institute were featured on a larger-than-life mural in downtown Chicago. 

Brandon Zsigray ’14 graduated from TCU’s College of Science & Engineering after completing his undergraduate work in its Pre-Health Professions Institute. Following medical school in 2018, Zsigray became a neurosurgery resident at Loyola Medicine in Chicago. He says his time at TCU prepared him for his path to become a surgeon. “From day one, you’re exposed to research opportunities and very much encouraged to partake in them, especially as part of the pre-health track…they really encouraged us to get involved with physician shadowing as an opportunity to see what a medical career really meant,” Zsigray says.  

Completing her undergraduate work a few years after Zsigray in the Pre-Health Program, Courtney Sullivan ’17 graduated from Baylor College of Medicine and began her residency at the University of Chicago Medicine in obstetrics and gynecology. She says that the academic rigor of TCU prepared her well for the challenges of medical school. “Medical training is obviously a very long road, and it's very hard. The College of Science & Engineering does not make its classes easy…You can really tell that your professors want to push you and want to make you a better student,” Sullivan says. Sullivan has done a lot of advocacy work in medical school for reproductive justice among marginalized populations. She credits TCU with helping her grow in confidence and shaping her into the leader she is today.  

McKenna Chalman ’19 also went through the Pre-Health Program and was a 2023 graduate of the inaugural class of the TCU Burnett School of Medicine. Chalman is completing her general surgery residency at Rush University in Chicago. She says, “Being a part of the first class at TCU’s Burnett School of Medicine has been wonderful. I look at my classmates and see where everybody else is going to residency and all the success that they have had, and I can't believe that I get to be a part of that too. Of those that applied to residency this year, 100% of us were matched. That's phenomenal and exciting, and now we get to kind of scatter and continue our training and represent TCU as we do that.” 

The Pre-Health Professions Institute differentiates itself from programs at other universities in its highly tailored approach. Chumchal notes, "Since the beginning, the Pre-Health Program has been characterized by an innovative and personalized approach that puts our students at the center of everything we do.” In the past 10 years, the Institute has expanded its opportunities for students by incorporating coursework focused on professional development in a student’s first, second and final year that helps them navigate the challenging requirements of this path. The Institute has also developed the Cultural Awareness in Healthcare minor, which helps students explore the impact of society and the cultural, social, and ethical issues that have implications in medicine, and is now one of the most popular minors in CSE.  

Almost half of the committee that advises Pre-Health students has been doing so for more than a decade. This longevity translates into a tremendous level of institutional knowledge and great working relationships with many of the health professions programs in the region. Chumchal says, “Our advisors have an open-door policy and care deeply about their students. Committee members help students select courses and assess each student’s academic progress at least once a semester. In addition, faculty members provide counseling regarding the health professions and evaluate, both for the student and for the professional schools, the student’s suitability for entering the profession.” Before applying to professional school, students undergo mock interviews with faculty and local health care providers to prepare for the interview process.   

TCU is committed to the teacher-scholar model in which faculty both teach and conduct original research. This means that faculty are experts in their disciplines, bringing cutting-edge information into the classroom. This model also provides undergraduate students with a unique opportunity to participate in research with faculty at a rate not possible at larger schools. 

Exposing students to real-world medicine remains an important goal of the Pre-Health Professions Institute. The Institute is well-connected to the healthcare community in Fort Worth and beyond. Students administer a health care observation program that provides access to over 20 clinics and hospitals where students observe doctors, dentists, and physician assistants while also interacting with patients. The Pre-Health Program offers internships at several venues: a local hospital emergency department, a fetal care center, a cancer institute, and a free clinic for the medically underserved.   

EPIC (Experiential Projects to Impact the Community) Grants are awarded annually to support Pre-Health student-led projects that benefit communities locally and on TCU's campus. These grants foster a culture of giving and provide students with opportunities to develop cultural humility, teamwork, and leadership skills. Additionally, several health-related clubs and organizations provide students with the opportunity to get to know their classmates, and the Institute hosts several social activities for its students each year including a tailgate during Family Weekend, white elephant gift exchange, and an end-of-the-year BBQ.   

These strengths have helped the Pre-Health Professions Institute attract top students. Pre-Health students comprise 21% of the Chancellor’s Scholars and 22% of the students in the Honors College. Each year, the Institute advises approximately 1,000 students who must complete a demanding curriculum including at least two years of coursework in biology and chemistry and one year of physics coursework. 

Another innovative addition to the Pre-Health program is the Narrative Medicine Listening Project. Its purpose is to prepare future physicians and healthcare providers to become thoughtful practitioners by directly listening to the lived illness stories of current and former patients and their loved ones. Students grow in their capacity to practice empathy, compassion, acknowledgement, and thoughtful listening. Looking ahead, the Pre-Health Professions Institute will continue to focus on new initiatives to broaden its curriculum and foster new programs that promote leadership, service, cultural humility, and a sense of belonging.  

“Healthcare is rapidly changing - and along with it, the training and support pre-professional students need to be successful. Over the next 150 years, the Pre-Health Professions Institute looks forward to providing students with a strong foundation as they begin their journey to become empathetic healthcare leaders," Chumchal says. 

Learn more about CSE’s Pre-Health Professions Institute. 


TCU Medical School

TCU’s Pre-Health Professions Institute Timeline 

  • 1911: TCU takes over operations of the Fort Worth School of Medicine in downtown. 
  • 1912: The American Medical Association issues new requirements forcing medical schools to have hefty endowments. By 1917, the board of trustees closes TCU’s medical school. 
  • 1913: Story in the Horned Frog notes the beginning of a new program for pre-health majors. Biology Professor Will Winton serves as chair. 
  • 1918: Pre-health courses mentioned in the TCU course catalog. Students had two options: 1) the AMA-recommended curriculum of two years of study that included math, biology, English, modern language, physics, chemistry and an elective. Students who completed at least two years of coursework could be admitted to medical school.  2) Students who took course work in addition to that recommended by the AMA that included classes in Bible, history and philosophy would simultaneously be granted their undergraduate degree by TCU when they earned their medical degree (provided the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences approved of the medical school). 
  • 1943: Winton leads TCU’s Navy V-12 training program and Professor Willis G. Hewitt is asked by President Sadler to advise the pre-med/pre-dent trainees. 
  • 1950: Winton steps down as chair of the pre-health program and Hewatt takes over. 
  • 1964: Hewitt reports that 361 of the program’s graduates had gone on to medical school and that 97 members of the Tarrant County Medical Society — 21 percent — are TCU grads. 
  • 1972: Chemistry Professor Manfred Reinecke takes over as chair of the pre-health program as Hewitt steps down. 
  • 1975: The TCU Pre-Med/Pre-Dent Honor Society is formed with Reinecke as its faculty advisor. 
  • 1978: TCU’s Pre-Med/Pre-Dent Honor Society petitions to affiliate with Alpha Epsilon Delta, the world’s largest group devoted to pre-medical education. A year later, the Texas Zeta Chapter of AED is established at TCU with the initiation of 31 active members, three active alumni and five honorary members. 
  • 1991: Reinecke steps down as pre-health chair. The following year, biology Professor Phil Hartman takes over running the program. 
  • 1995: Dr. Elliott Trotter, an emergency department physician at Harris Methodist Hospital in downtown Fort Worth, contacts Pre-Health Chair Phil Hartman to inquire about employing a few TCU students to work in the emergency department. It becomes the beginning of the Scribe program, which pairs students with physicians to assist with medical records, ordering of lab results and related needs. 
  • 1998: TCU’s AED chapter helps organize the group’s national convention in Fort Worth. 
  • 1999: The program initiates a “mock” interview process, giving students three practice interviews before they meet with admission officials from professional programs. 
  • 2003: The program’s office moves to the ground floor of the Sid W. Richardson Building to boost student traffic. In 2010, the offices get upgrades including a flat-screen TV, contributed by Chancellor Victor J. Boschini Jr. for “study purposes.” 
  • 2010: The national AED office moves to TCU, and TCU’s chapter is featured on the cover of the society’s national magazine The Scalpel. 
  • 2013: Hartman is named Dean of the College of Science and Engineering. Matt Chumchal ’03 MS, associate professor of biology, takes over as director of the Pre-Health Professions Program and Shauna McGillivray, assistant professor of biology, is named associate director. 
  • 2013: In recognition of its importance to the campus community, the Pre-Health Program becomes the TCU Pre-Health Professions Institute and establishes an External Advisory Board composed of alumni and parents practicing medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine. 
  • 2014 Dr. Robert Gullinese ’97 develops the TCU Pre-Health Profession Institute THR Harris Fort Worth Emergency Room Internship. Since its founding, the annual summer internship has allowed close to 200 students the opportunity to observe emergency medicine physicians and gain a unique perspective on healthcare and the important work done in one of Fort Worth busiest emergency rooms. 
  • 2015: The Dr. Phil Hartman Pre-Health Director’s Fund for Excellence was established by Pre-Health alumni to honor longtime director and provide the institute with financial latitude to support students. 
  • 2017: In response to the growth of the Pre-Health Professions Institute, a second associate director position is created. Meredith Curtis, instructor of biology, is named associate director. 
  • 2017: Pre-Health Professions Institute partners with UT Southwestern Moncrief Cancer Institute to develop an internship program for Pre-Health students to learn about oncology and community health. 
  • 2018: Pre-Health Professions Institute partners with Fetal Care Center Dallas at Medical City Dallas to develop an internship program for Pre-Health students to learn about fetal and maternal medicine. 
  • 2018: In response to continued growth a second staff position is added to coordinate student programing. The office currently includes two staff Coordinators, Jessica Alvarez and Sarah Jung. 
  • 2019: Experiential Projects to Impact the Community (EPIC) Grants were established to provide Pre-Health students with funds to develop projects that positively impact the campus or Greater Fort Worth Community. The successful program has supported several mentoring and health education programs.   
  • 2019: Pre-Health Professions Institute conducts their first Mock Multiple-Mini Interview (MMI) event, giving students an opportunity to prepare for this new style of professional school interview.  
  • 2020: Mathew Crawford, instructor of the Pre-Health Professions Institute, becomes the first full-time faculty member within the Pre-Health Professions Institute. Dr. Crawford focuses on exposing students to the medical humanities and helping them develop into well-rounded applicants and future health-care providers. 
  • 2020: Pre-Health Professions Institute launches our Longitudinal Professional Development Curriculum. The curriculum includes courses like Introduction to Pre-Health (for first year students), Becoming a Great Applicant (for sophomores) and Pre-Health Professional Development (for juniors/seniors). The curriculum is designed to introduce students to the core competencies that future healthcare providers should possess and help them prepare to successfully apply to professional school. 
  • 2020 In response to the pandemic and lack of “in person” shadowing opportunities, Dr. Lisa Nash ’87 develops the Family Medicine Virtual Clerkship. This successful program, which continued even after COVID restrictions ended, uses a self-paced virtual format to expose students to the field of family medicine and some clinical skills, like writing SOAP notes. Participants also can shadow family medicine physicians and debrief with Dr. Nash and resident physicians at the end of the experience. 
  • 2021: Pre-Health Student Leadership Council was implemented to provide students with opportunities for greater involvement in the management and development of Institute programing.   
  • 2021: In response to the COVID 19 pandemic, Pre-Health students donate 2,300 hours (about 3 months) of time volunteering with TCU’s community COVID vaccine clinic.  
  • 2021: Michael Kruger named Dean of the College of Science & Engineering.  
  • 2021: DEI Student Advocates appointed in response to student focus groups. Student advocates develop programming relevant to students from groups that have been historically underrepresented in healthcare.   
  • 2022: The Pre-Health Peer Mentoring Program, that provides students with additional opportunities to engage with the Pre-Health office, is launched. Peer mentors are trained students that focus on supporting their peers and connecting them to resources offered by TCU or the Pre-Health office.   
  • 2022: Pre-Health begins partnership with Cancer Care Services, providing student volunteers and hosting an annual holiday party for patients and their families 
  • 2022-2023: TCU Pre-Health partners with Be The Match (now NMDP) to offer 3 donor registry drives on campus, registering hundreds of new potential donors.  
  • 2023: The number of Pre-Health students reaches 950, more than doubling in size over the previous 10 years.