There’s no denying our world has changed drastically in the last few years. The proof can be seen in the healthcare sector, which has been rocked by a pandemic, a looming recession and digitisation. However, the industry’s biggest challenge has remained: labour shortages, that are only worsening with time. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the US could see a shortage of as many as 124,000 doctors by 2034.
While institutions across the world are working hard to close the skills gap, one in the heart of Tennessee stands tall as a testament to the power of localised impact. It’s called The University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC). Established in 1911, it remains firmly rooted in its mission to elevate the health and well-being of Tennesseans. However, the Center doesn’t just serve its state; it cherishes and nurtures it, recognising that the health of a community is the cornerstone of a thriving society.
To date, UTHSC has graduated 75% of the state’s dentists and 34% of its pharmacists. It is also the largest producer of Tennessee’s doctorally prepared nurses. Everyone receives training from expert faculty, who seamlessly transition into roles as frontline physicians in the state’s largest hospitals — which is just one of the reasons why they leave UTHSC ready to save lives. “They have a high standard of excellence that pushes us students to achieve our full potential,” says Dentistry student Addison Conner Glover.
Hands-on learning also plays a crucial role in their development. The Office of Experiential Learning and International Programs ensures every learner is paired with real-world experiences that are vital for their professional development and future success in the healthcare field.
“The most rewarding experience I’ve had academically has been the rotations I’ve been able to go on,” says Pharmacy student Annie Dong. “It’s allowed me to basically apply what I’ve learned in the classroom to the outside world and to help care for patients and help them get better.”
It’s in these moments that the impact of experiential learning becomes tangible. Alexus Cunningham, a Physician Assistant student, loved watching her education better the lives of others. “We were able to perform blood pressure screenings, diabetic checks and other services here to a population of patients who might not have access to a primary care provider to receive these necessary screenings,” she shares. “It was such a great experience, and I feel like we really made a difference. We were able to equip these patients with the knowledge that they need to improve their health.”
However, at UTHSC, service isn’t just a hands-on learning component; it’s ingrained in the institution’s DNA. Every year, it hosts a Campus Food Drive and the United Way Campaign to uplift its community. Campus is home to Clinica Esperanza, which is run by College of Medicine students, residents, and faculty to offer free medical services to underserved, uninsured Latino adults. The Rachel Kay Stevens Therapy Center is equally impactful — a student-run pro bono clinic dedicated to serving underinsured or uninsured minors of the Mid-South.
“UTHSC emphasises that ‘service role’,” explains Physical Therapy student Michael Mitchell. “I think they push us to be more involved in the community so that we’re exposed to that, and we get out of our comfort zone and get more comfortable dealing with people that might not necessarily have the same background as you.”
Enhancing the health and well-being of Tennesseans is a priority across UTHSC’s six colleges. Its College of Dentistry is the US’s third oldest, offering degrees and certificates in Diagnostic Sciences, Oral and Maxillofacial Diagnostic Services, Dental Hygiene, Endodontics, General Practice, Orthodontics, Pediatric Dentistry and Community Oral Health, Periodontology and more.
With campuses located in Knoxville and Memphis, the College of Health Professions is composed of the departments of Audiology and Speech Pathology, Diagnostic and Health Sciences, Occupational Therapy, and Physical Therapy and the Division of Regenerative and Rehabilitation Sciences.
The College of Medicine is reserved for those keen on providing health services of the highest quality, namely in Anatomy and Neurobiology, Anesthesiology, Comparative Medicine, Dermatology, Emergency Medicine, Family Medicine, Genetics, Neurosurgery, Pediatrics, Plastic Surgery, Preventive Medicine, and Radiology, amongst several other topical subject areas.
UTHSC is also home to a College of Nursing, a College of Pharmacy and a College of Graduate Health Sciences. To explore the full list of academic programmes available at this launchpad for tomorrow’s healthcare heroes, click here.