Daniel Arrioja Azuaje, 23, fell in love with the medical field in Venezuela, where he grew up.

“I had family that had illnesses that exposed me to medicine and very positive experiences in medicine. I really felt like I wanted to be that kind of doctor,” Arrioja Azuaje said. “That sort of drove me more into the field.”

The TCU School of Medicine welcomed its fourth class on July 11. The students received their school IDs and participated in a “Welcome to Fort Worth” discussion with panelists Estela Martinez-Stuart, the director of leisure sales and Hispanic partnerships at Visit Fort Worth, Jada Nicome, the general manager of Hotel Dryce, Jason Suder, the founder of Tulips Fort Worth and MaryAnn Means-Duferene, founder of Collective Growth.

Azuaje’s journey to becoming one of 60 students in Texas Christian University School of Medicine’s fourth class was not simple, he said.

In Venezuela, people apply for medical school right after high school. If you don’t make it the first time, there’s really no going back, he said. “You kind of just forget about it, and I forgot about it.”

He studied at a community college in Florida, then finished his undergraduate studies at the University of Central Florida before setting his sights back on his medical profession dream.

“I thought that I was going to go into a completely different field, like engineering or research, and then life happened,” Arrioja Azuaje said.

Azuaje’s classmate, Priyanka Subash, 30, worked in finance before leaping into medicine.

“It’s exhilarating but also like, ‘Is this happening right now?’” Subash said.

Her “unconventional path” led her to the school of medicine.

“It was definitely a transition. It took me until I’m 30 to figure that out,” Subash said.

They both chose the TCU School of Medicine because of how welcomed they felt when they visited, they said.

“It has been quite a change, but in a good way,” Arrioja Azuaje said. “I felt at home.”

Dr. Erin Nelson, the TCU School of Medicine Assistant Dean of Admissions, Outreach and Financial Education, emphasized the importance of introducing students not only to medicine curricula but to the social aspects of their school of medicine experience.

“We’re all so proud of the city and it has so much to offer every interest and so we’ve really tried to welcome them to their new hometown and integrate that,” Nelson said.

Panelists talked about places to eat, hang out and participate in Fort Worth social activities.

“Obviously, this is medical school, and it’s hard and it’s a rigorous curriculum. But that also means that their health and wellness and well-being is really important,” Nelson said. “Sometimes folks feel isolated.”

The TCU School of Medicine wants to focus on students’ holistic experience, Nelson said. By supporting students in multiple aspects of their medical school experience, they hope to allow students to adapt to their new hometown.

“This is where they’ll be for the next four years,” Nelson 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 cristian.arguetasoto@fortworthreport.org or (817) 317-6991.