Sixty TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine students were part of the first class to participate in Alcon’s unnamed ophthalmology program at its Experience Center on Dec. 7.

“The program is for the TCU/UNTHSC School of Medicine students to get hands-on experience,” Chuck Marshall, head of academic accounts and healthcare professional education at Alcon, said. “This is only the first one.”

The students got to use virtual reality technology, learn about phacoemulsification, or a cataract surgery method, and toured parts of the Alcon facility.

Experts like Sai Chavala, a professor at the TCU/UNTHSC School of Medicine, guided the first-year medical school students through the technology and procedures.

In one room dubbed the “wet lab,” students used Alcon’s Centurion Vision System machines to prep fake eyeballs for cataract surgery with the leadership of Dr. Judson Smith, an ophthalmologist who works with Chavala.

Students then moved to a virtual reality station that allowed them to experience the inside of an eyeball. In another room, students practiced a method where they perform surgery while looking at a TV monitor.

Medical student Claire Munster got her undergraduate degree in biology from Texas Christian University and decided to stay in Fort Worth for her graduate degree. “I’m from Alabama, but I swam at TCU and got introduced to the area and probably won’t ever leave,” she said.

“It is really easy to get a hold of people for character development and leadership opportunities,” Munster added.

Alcon and Texas Christian University have a history of working together. The Ed & Rae Schollmaier Arena is named after former Alcon CEO Ed Schollmaier, who served on the university’s board of trustees for 25 years.

The program, which hasn’t been named yet, will occur at least annually, said Steven Smith, the director of Global External Communications Corporate Affairs at Alcon.

“We have a curriculum that is based around a lot of medical innovation, so it makes sense [for us] to have come here,” Ethan Vieira, a student at TCU and UNTHSC School of Medicine, said.

Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. Contact him by email or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Cristian ArguetaSoto

Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. He can be reached at or (817) 317-6991.

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