The early morning brought strong storms to the Memphis area, but the rain stopped just in time for our tour of UT Health Science Center. The campus is located downtown in the midst of the city’s big hospitals. We started off by meeting our tour guide, Keith Chandler, at the brand new One Stop Shop for students in the Madison Avenue buildings next to the Hamilton Eye Institute. There were some small tweaks to our schedule, and then we were off to the Center for Cancer Research to meet director Lawrence Pfeffer, who has been at UTHSC for 23 years (pictured at the left). The building houses labs where researchers from across the campus work. The uniqueness of the center is the interdisciplinary nature and teamwork between researchers from all colleges. By working in close proximity, researchers are able to talk about their work with each other in formal setting like a seminar or in an informal setting like getting coffee at the same time or asking to borrow equipment. “This is not a silo enterprise,” he told us. “Everyone works together. The thing we have in common is cancer research.”
Next, we stopped by the new Physician Assistant Studies program, which just began in January by enrolling its first class of students. UT is the only public institution with a PA program in the state. Clinical coordinator Matthew Allman said the resources at UTHSC and the fact that PA students train alongside medical students sets this program apart from others. Today, students were taking a timed exam on computers, but some students ventured to the classroom after their exam. The classroom we visited had multiple patient tables set up for students to practice examinations.
Our third stop was a dental simulation lab. The instructor we were scheduled to meet was out sick today, but lab manager Hurby Franks stepped in and showed us around. He has worked at UTHSC for 36 years and has seen the lab technology change greatly over that span. He was explaining how the mannequins worked when the fire alarm went off in the General Education Building. We looked at each other and decided it best we evacuate just in case. But after we got into the hall, the alarm stopped, and we proceeded with the visit. There are 90 stations in the lab we visited, and each student has his or her assigned station. This pre-clinical lab helps prepare first- and second-year students for real patients later.
Finally, we met with three medical students before they joined the Student Appreciation Day festivities. We met Henry Dodd, a third-year student from Adamsville; Amanda Miller (Chattanooga ’08), a fourth-year from Manchester; and Dilan Patel, a fourth-year from Clarksville (pictured at the left). They talked about how much they enjoyed being in Memphis and the friendly atmosphere at UTHSC, which they described as not cutthroat like some medical schools. “People help each other,” Amanda said. The trio also liked the chance to work in so many different hospitals.
We walked all over the UTHSC campus, and definitely earned our lunch at Central BBQ. Pulled pork, BBQ nachos and pulled chicken filled our table with UTHSC alumni Crystal Walker (nursing) and Lindsey Wells (pharmacy) (pictured at the left). Interestingly, they picked up on the interdisciplinary opportunities they had in working with students across the colleges. In caring for patients, many disciplines work together, so it makes sense for doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists and others to know how to be a team. “There’s a communication barrier if you haven’t worked together before,” Crystal said. They were impressive, and we appreciate Kris Phillips scheduling our lunch with them.
There’s no rest for this trip, so we were off to Martin in the afternoon. We took U.S. 51 north through Ripley and Dyersburg, and heard we barely missed a funnel cloud somewhere around Troy. But the trip was mostly sunny and very pleasant. We had to make a slight detour in Dyersburg to get a replacement screw for our video camera, but we still made it on time for dinner at The Hearth in Martin.
The Hearth, a long-time family restaurant in Martin, is literally where everyone knows your name. We met Todd and Jennifer Hampton, both UT Martin graduates and financial advisors in Martin. They seemed to know everyone, and everyone seemed to know them. That is what you’d expect in Martin, and that is what makes the town and UT Martin unique in the UT System.
The Hamptons (pictured below) are very active as alumni and are excited about what the university offers the community. “It’s a blessing to live in Martin,” Todd said. “The university contributes to our quality of life.” They estimated visiting the campus two to four times a week for various meetings and activities. They both talked about the relationships faculty form with students and how those relationships continue past graduation. Our discussion over a great dinner made us eager for tomorrow’s tour of the UT Martin campus.