Introducing Dr. Mohr Ahead: New Dean of SHSU-COM - Sam Houston State University (2023)

February 3, 2023
SHSU media contact:Glimmer boyd

Von Nhi Nguyen

Introducing Dr. Mohr Ahead: New Dean of SHSU-COM - Sam Houston State University (1)In September 2022, Thomas J. Mohr, MS, DO, FACOI, FAOGME, Professor of Internal Medicine, became Dean ofSam Houston State University College of Osteopathic Medicine (SHSU-COM)).

Dean Mohr joined SHSU-COM after serving as Dean and Academic Director at the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine (ICOM). Under his leadership, ICOM achieved full accreditation in May 2022, graduating its first class of medical students. He had previously been on the founding faculty of a new medical school in San Antonio and fell in love with Texas. He is excited to return to the Lone Star State, where his passion for expanding access to primary health care in rural and underserved areas aligns perfectly with SHSU-COM's mission.

T@S: What is the difference between M.D. (medical) and D.O. (doctor of osteopathic medicine)?

TM:Both MDs and DOs are licensed to practice the full spectrum of medicine and may pursue the specialty of their choice. However, osteopathic medical students are more likely to spend their third and fourth years in rural, community settings than in large, urban, academic medical centers. These large centers tend to focus more on subspecialty care, which is great, but 80 percent of health care in the United States is performed in community centers and doctor's offices in rural areas across the country. This is what the SHSU College of Osteopathy is focused on: empowering our students in these rural communities to practice holistic, patient-centered healthcare that focuses on maintaining health and not just treating disease. Osteopathic medical students also train in musculoskeletal manipulation, where we use our hands for diagnosis and treatment. This is an additional tool in our "black bag" that distinguishes us from others.

T@S: Why did you decide to study osteopathic medicine?

TM:I interviewed both M.D. as in D.O. Schools and M.D. schools, they treated me like a number and only asked me questions about my grades. Then I went to an interview with D.O. Schools asked her about me, what motivated me to become a doctor and why it was important to me to make a difference in the world. This way they could assess my communication skills and interpersonal skills. The way we treat our patients (our bedside approach) can make a big difference in whether patients trust you and follow your recommendations. A great doctor can sit by your bedside during tough times, hold your hand and be part of the healing process, rather than just writing prescriptions or ordering tests. Osteopathic colleges were interested in me as a person, who I was and what I wanted to be. I believed that if I was treated that way as a student, the school would be better equipped to train me to treat my future patients in the same way. This was the kind of doctor he wanted to be.

T@S: SHSU-COM is a D.O. nationwide competitive. The school and the first cohort of students did very well on their most recent COMLEX USA Level 1 tests. What do you think makes our program so successful?

TM:Our inaugural class had a 97.1 percent pass rate on the National Board exam the first time. This puts us in the top quarter of osteopathic schools nationwide. My predecessors and our current faculty and staff have done a truly great job in laying the foundation for a quality curriculum here. You could say that we happened to hire an excellent first generation of students and they are great, but without a quality curriculum they would not have done so well. You also have to give credit to our medical students because they really work incredibly hard to make this happen without the seniors guiding them.

T@S: Why did you want to come to Texas and why did you choose Sam Houston for the next step in your career?

TM:There are some wonderful and beautiful things in the Great White Northwest, where I come from, including lots of snow and ice. However, I couldn't wait to get back to Texas! There's an ethos, a heart and soul and an identity, a pride and a passion, and a beautiful dysfunction in Texas that isn't replicated anywhere else in the world. I already had a number of colleagues, faculty and administrators here at Sam that I had previously worked with at other institutions. When the founding dean retired, all of a sudden I got calls from my old co-workers saying, "Hey, you should come over."

T@S: What do you enjoy most about being Dean of the SHSU College of Osteopathic Medicine?

TM:I really enjoy leading this group of amazing faculty and staff, but what I'm really looking forward to is going to happen in 2024. In May we will have our first degree and receive accreditation at the same time. No medical school will be accredited until that first student passes the stage. So when we get our first degree, it's important on many different levels. It matters to each of our students who have now become doctors for the rest of their lives, it's really a transformational process. During the existence of this institution, at the time this happens, we also fully accredit ourselves. Years of work have gone into this project and it will be a very proud moment for the entire Sam community.

T@S: What do you love most about your job?

TM:The best thing about working in osteopathic medicine is being able to be a part of people's lives and families through their best and worst times. You have the opportunity to help people overcome the fear of death and the joy of birth and the changes we all go through during our life cycle. It is a great honor to be able to be a part of someone's life, family or community in a way that makes a difference. This group of people that we have here are part of something bigger than themselves and I think that's beautiful, it's a great lesson to be able to change someone's life.

T@S: What inspires or motivates you?

TM:They are primarily our medical students. It's difficult to be a doctor, it used to be difficult, but it's getting harder and harder, and these men and women are making tremendous sacrifices. You don't just show up to take a few courses, you're here to be changed so you can make a difference in the world, and that inspires you. Our inaugural class began medical school at a new university with no high school students and an untested curriculum just as the pandemic was changing the world for everyone. They have had to deal with it all and yet they remain tenacious and have the flexibility and determination to move forward and succeed. Our students are my inspiration.

T@S: What do you think is necessary to be successful in this area?

TM:Medical students must have the heart and passion to succeed and the dedication to move forward. Medical school is like drinking out of a fire hose, it's not easy. Here you can see people studying at all hours of the day and night. Once they are in their third or fourth year, they will spend many hours in hospitals and clinics, then they will go home and study some more, so it takes a lot of time and effort to get through. However, from my experience it's totally worth it, I wouldn't trade it for the world and there hasn't been a moment when I looked back on my career and regretted it. Our goal is to help each of our medical students find success and fulfillment in a career focused on service to others.

- FIN-

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