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New UTA, Texas Health Resources collaboration offers pre-medical undergraduates unique, first-hand hospital experience

Monday, August 10, 2015 • Media Contact: Kristin Sullivan

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The University of Texas at Arlington and Texas Health Resources, one of the largest faith-based, nonprofit health systems in the United States, are collaborating to offer undergraduates pursuing medical careers a unique opportunity to experience a physician’s work first-hand.

The Pre-Medical Student Preceptorship Program began as a pilot project in spring 2015 and formally launches this fall, pairing high-achieving students selected through a highly competitive process with physician-mentors in a hospital setting. Selected students participate in a six-week, for-credit course during the semester, shadowing physicians at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital in the operating room and in patient settings.

Participants will analyze medical literature and present case studies to their physician-mentors for critique. And they will meet with UT Arlington faculty members to evaluate, discuss and enhance their clinical experience, including analyzing relevant published topics such as clinical trials, molecular research, ethical issues, patient experiences and more.

"The University of Texas at Arlington is thrilled to continue to build a powerful partnership with Texas Health Resources, one of the drivers of the North Texas economy and a leading national provider of patient care,” President Vistasp M. Karbhari said.

“We are looking forward to expanding our relationship to further biomedical and health science education and research to not only provide the very best academic experiences for our students but to also engage proactively in partnerships that enable the well-being of our community and to ensure better health care for the future.”

Kirk King, Texas Health Resources Southwest Zone executive vice president and operations leader, said: “By collaborating with outstanding individuals at UT Arlington, our dedicated clinicians and physicians on the medical staff are helping advance science and medicine in North Texas. We are privileged to work with UT Arlington and to use our wealth of clinical and academic knowledge to enhance health care and improve the health and well-being of the people in the communities we serve.”

President Karbhari commended UT Arlington College of Science administrators and staff who developed the program, including Dr. Ashley Purgason, assistant vice president for strategic initiatives; as well as orthopedic surgeon Dr. Joseph Borrelli Jr. and vascular surgeon Dr. Jon Senkowsky; both of the Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital medical staff; and Dr. James H. Sammons Jr., chief medical officer for Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital.

Purgason, a UT Arlington alumna who earned her doctorate in environmental toxicology from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, serves as faculty adviser and coordinator for the Pre-Medical Preceptorship Program.

“Many preceptorship programs are reserved for medical students or offer undergraduate students limited engagement,” Purgason said. “Our students will have access to a truly rich medical experience that ultimately will benefit both institutions and produce more physicians to serve our region.”

Borrelli, who also is on staff at Orthopedic Medicine Specialists, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice in Arlington, worked closely with Dr. Purgason to make the experience a reality for students.

“It’s critical for them to know early on how important it is that they learn the sacrifices, the commitment that we make,” Borrelli said. “They also see what a positive interaction health care is. We spend a great deal of time helping our patients, treating our patients and bonding with our patients.”

Joseph Balaban, a biochemistry major from Cleburne who participated in the spring pilot program, said he was surprised by how open patients were with him and willing to help him as a student.

“Not many pre-med students get this kind of exposure before medical school,” Balaban said. “Every day was a new day. One day we’d be working in the office, another day we’d go to the OR… That excitement of being able to do something new every day definitely had me hooked and strengthened my resolve to go to medical school.”

Blake Kretz, president of Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital, said the program will create a pipeline of future physicians, some of who return to serve the community.

“With the aging of America, we’ll need more and more physicians to care for people, and this is a great opportunity to give people experience from the very beginning in the hospital here,” Kretz said.

The pre-med preceptorship program began with students selected from the College of Science but also will include bioengineering and kinesiology students from the colleges of Engineering and Nursing and Health Innovation this fall, Purgason said. The UTA-Texas Health collaboration is expected to broaden to encompass additional academic and research areas under the umbrella of improving health and the human condition, as set forth in the University’s Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact.

Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams applauded the partnership, saying, “Education is the foundation of any community, and UT Arlington has been such a great partner in establishing this program. Now, we are going to be on the cutting edge of providing this kind of opportunity to undergraduates – being able to shadow a physician is tremendous. And that just doesn’t happen in too many places.”

To learn more about the UTA-Texas Health Resources Pre-Medical Preceptorship Program, please contact Dr. Ashley Purgason at or at 817-272-2101. The website for the program, including how to apply, is available at

About The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 51,000 students in campus-based and online degree programs and is the second-largest institution in The University of Texas System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UT Arlington as one of the 20 fastest-growing public research universities in the nation in 2014. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. The University is a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is ranked as a “Best for Vets” college by Military Times magazine. Visit to learn more, and find UT Arlington rankings and recognition at

About Texas Health Resources

Texas Health Resources is one of the largest faith-based, nonprofit health systems in the United States. The health system includes 25 acute care and short-stay hospitals that are owned, operated, joint-ventured or affiliated with Texas Health Resources. It includes the Texas Health Presbyterian, Texas Health Arlington Memorial, Texas Health Harris Methodist and Texas Health Huguley Hospitals, Texas Health Physicians Group, outpatient facilities, behavioral health and home health, preventive and fitness services, and an organization for medical research and education. For more information, please visit ;