“We’re kind of new kids in town, and people don’t really know that we’re here,” said Dr. Frances C. Purcell.
Purcell serves dual roles at the campus: Provost of Trinity Medical Sciences University as well as the Dean of the School of Medicine.
“We started in 2008,” Purcell said of the university. “We have a school of medicine and a school of biomedical sciences. Our presence in Warner Robins is predominately for our school of medicine and it is a clinical transition term and a third- and fourth-year clinical rotation campus.”
For those who may not be familiar with how medical school works, the first two years are basic sciences like anatomy, pathology, histology and the like. Once a student has completed his or her first two years, universities such as Trinity are the next step.
“Now, our students do their basic sciences on our basic science campus, and then they come here to do that transitional term where they learn to kind of integrate everything,” Purcell said. “They take a standardized exam, which is the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam—there are three of those that they have to take. They take the first one, and once they pass that, they become what we call a clinical student. That clinical student goes with doctors at HHC (Houston Health Care) or doctors in the community, and they work in those offices on what we call rotations.”
Purcell went on to explain that a medical student’s third year of medical school involves what is termed as “rotations.”
“That’s where they get a taste of all of the basics,” Purcell described. “They get pediatrics, they get psychiatry, they get internal medicine, family medicine, surgery, all the basic things. They get a sample of all of those so that they can better determine what type of medicine they want to practice. Once they finish that third year, they declare their specialty—maybe they say, ‘I’m going to be a family medicine doctor,’ and then they’ll do elective rotations in the fourth year that allow them to tailor their education to the specialty that they would like to be in. They do that for about two-thirds of their fourth year. They will finish it before the full year is out.”
Becoming a doctor is quite a journey. No profession happens overnight, but to become a full-fledge medical physician takes dedication and determination. Even after their fourth year and the rotations, there’s more. Then comes residency.
“Residency is after you have your M.D.,” Purcell clarified. “Students here will do an intern here, and then a full resident year where they are actually practicing physicians under the umbrella of another physician that’s making sure they’re doing what they need to do. So, my kids,” she said, “when they graduate from my program, will have an M.D. behind their names, but they won’t actually be physicians until they do a residency.”
It’s that residence that fully prepares students like Dr. Purcell’s for being able to see patients. Once they have that under their belt, they’re full-blown, so to speak, and are free to hang their own shingle. And now, with Trinity being in Houston County, a large part of the process to students reaching their goal as practicing physicians can happen right here.
“We do a transitional term where they are mostly studying for their exam, but they’re learning how to take information on a scientific level and interpret it in a patient. Once they pass that exam, they do their clinical rotations for their third year, and then they do their fourth-year electives, and then they graduate. In total, they will spend about two and a half years here at our campus,” Purcell stated.
Trinity Medical Sciences University is located at the Old Houston Mall at 233 N. Houston Road, Suite 310 in Warner Robins. Currently, the classroom at Trinity holds 100 students, but Purcell said that they are interested in growing. However, one the most important things—not related to education—about having the school in Houston County, she said, is the impact it can make economically.
“These are not local students,” Purcell pointed out, “They are from all over the U.S. and Canada. We’re bringing them here, and some of them have husbands, wives and children that come here with them for the time that they are going through this term. They’ve essentially moved here, so they are renting homes and apartments, they are buying groceries, they’re sending their children to our schools; their spouses are getting employed locally. So, it’s effectively bringing a lot of people into the community, and it’s making a pretty significant economic impact when you think about that many people being brought to this area for essentially two and a half years of time.”
Purcell shared that it is Trinity’s hope to be a positive addition to the community. The Warner Robins location has been in place for about a year now, and word of its presence is spreading, and the student registration is growing. Best of all, the students seem to love Houston County.
“Some want to eventually move here permanently and become practicing physicians at Houston Healthcare because they love the hospital,” Purcell revealed. “The hospital has been a tremendous partner with us.”
Trinity has another campus in another part of the U.S., but because she is from Houston County, Purcell says the Warner Robins location is dear to her heart, and it brings her joy to serve as the Dean of the School of Medicine and be able to see her students get their education and grow in an area that she knows to be welcoming, friendly and a great place to live and raise a family.
“This is a win-win for all of us,” Purcell said. “It brings new doctors, new families and people who genuinely love the area and want to make this their new home. To me, this is wonderful.”
– HHJ News
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