Pre-med students shadow doctors in Body & Soul

dr. jeff webb and student

It's hard to tell who gets the most out of ACU's Body & Soul program - the students it was designed for or the doctors and dentists who make it happen.

"It's a good deal for students," says Dr. Jeff Webb, an Abilene dentist and 2002 ACU graduate. "And the doctors love it."

Under the leadership of Terri Aldriedge, the Body & Soul program exposes pre-medical and pre-dental students to what they can expect once they have the word "doctor" attached to their names.

A shadowing component lets students spend time in the offices of local doctors and dentists, observing their daily routine and even lending a helping hand. Students in the Body & Soul program also learn from participating in medical mission trips during spring break or the summertime. 

Mentors in careers and life

norm poormanDr. Norm Poorman, a 1993 graduate of ACU who specializes in pediatric dentistry in Abilene, became involved with the Body & Soul program after seeing other doctors volunteer their time while he was a student. "That had a great impression on me," says Poorman. "You can directly mentor students and remind them of how the Lord works in your own profession."

Poorman enjoys interacting with ACU's pre-dental students. "I love speaking with the students. I love helping them with the Bible. I make them think about what they want to do with their lives, what their calling is," he says.

The Body & Soul program didn't exist when Jeff Webb was a student, but he did take part in a spring break medical mission to Guatemala and participated in a similar trip during spring break 2009.

"I pulled my first teeth down there and gave shots," he recalls.

When Webb got his dental degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2006, he returned to Abilene to practice with Dr. David Broom, also an ACU grad. Broom already was involved in the Body & Soul program and Webb joined in "pretty much right off the bat."

Like the other doctors involved, Webb and Broom are flexible with their scheduling of students. They can come whenever it fits into their own schedule.

"We just make it available to them when they need it," Webb says. "It's fun just to kind of help them out." 

Sharing stories

dr. charles andersonOne of the program's original partners, Dr. Charles Anderson, couldn't agree more. Anderson, a 1979 ACU graduate, gets a lot of pleasure helping the students and also learning about their lives and sharing stories with them.

"They are wonderful students," Anderson says. "We do get to know each other fairly well."

Although the Body & Soul program didn't exist when Anderson was an ACU student, he remembered the invaluable words of encouragement and advice he received from one of his professors, the late Dr. John Little.

Little held a doctorate in anatomy from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston so he was familiar with the rigors of medical school. His students learned what to expect from hearing of his experiences, Anderson said. 

Not so routine

A routine day with Anderson, who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology, may not be so routine - even for the shadowing students. A typical month for him includes delivering 25 babies, performing 20 to 25 surgeries, and seeing 20 patients a day.

Some students give Anderson their cell phone numbers so he can contact them at night to observe a delivery.

"When they follow me, they see it all," he says.

dr. shannon cookeThe same could be said for students observing Dr. Shannon Cooke, a renowned local orthopedic surgeon. Cooke isn't an ACU graduate, but he is a strong believer in the program.

"People did it for me when I was at that stage of the game," he recalls. "I can't pay back the people who helped me," he says, but he can help current students get the same advantage he had.

Cooke can accommodate one student at a time in his office and has had has many as three different students during one semester.

Students shadowing Cooke have even gone into surgery with him. Cooke said the students are aware of the time he spends working with them, answering questions and offering advice.

"They're very grateful," he said. "I oftentimes get thank-you cards."

Taylor Tidmore, an ear, nose, and throat specialist, graduated from ACU in 1999 and earned his medical degree in 2003 from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. After five years spent completing his residency requirement in Columbia, Missouri, Tidmore came back to Abilene to practice. 

Happy to help out

Last fall was the first time for him to participate in the Body and Soul program. "I was happy to help out," he says.

Tidmore had one student assigned to him for a half-day once a week during the fall and is expecting another in the 2009 spring semester. Tidmore says the program allows students to see what being a doctor is really like before making a commitment.

"You don't always know what you're getting into," he says.

That includes learning about the realities of surgery and other not-so-pleasant aspects of being a doctor or dentist.

Webb recalls one student's reaction to a "rough day" of oral surgery. To the student's credit, he still wants to be a dentist.

"We had one pass out, but right now he's going strong," Webb says.

Learn more about attending ACU 


ACU pre-medical and pre-dental students shadow doctors for real-life experience.
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