Joni Thomas, a senior in the cooperative Occupational Therapy Program at The University of Texas-Pan American, has received the first Dr. Mario E. Ramirez Award of Excellence from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, which offers the cooperative bachelor's degree program at UTPA.
"I am so grateful to be chosen," said Thomas. "What appeals to me about occupational therapy is working with people one-on-one."
Thomas is a member of the first group of students to attend classes in the program at UT Pan American. A former assistant registrar in the university's Office of Admissions and Records, where she still works part-time, she holds degrees in business and sports administration.
She will complete her clinical instruction and receive her bachelor's degree in December. A graduate of Edinburg High School, she said she plans to practice in the Rio Grande Valley.
The award is named for long-time Starr County physician Dr. Mario E. Ramirez, a former member of the UT System Board of Regents. He is the vice president of South Texas/Border Initiatives with UTHSC-SA.
The program's 15 seniors and five full-time and adjunct faculty members voted on candidates for the award, which will be given to one graduating senior in the UT Pan American program each year to recognize professionalism and dedication to service, according to Judy Bowen, associate professor and coordinator of the program at UT Pan American.