South Texas high school seniors interested in becoming physicians are encouraged to apply for the Premedical Honors College at The University of Texas-Pan American by Feb. 1.
The Premedical Honors College is a special program operated by UTPA and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston to provide rigorous undergraduate educational experiences to ensure that the program's students will have the preparation needed to succeed in medical school. The overall goal of the program is to increase the number of physicians practicing in the medically underserved region of South Texas.
Students begin the eight-year program as entering freshmen and are offered conditional acceptance to Baylor College of Medicine upon graduating from UTPA.
"For someone who wants to become a physician, this is an excellent opportunity, because only 35 to 38 percent of students who apply to medical school actually get in," said Dr. Cindy Martinez Wedig, program coordinator at UTPA. "Students in the program don't have to worry during their senior year about applying to medical school, the interview process or competing with other students for admission."
The first group of students in the program graduated from UTPA in 1998 and all are now attending medical school, Dr. Wedig said. The 1999 entering class will be the sixth group of students admitted to the program.
Wedig said one of the advantages of the Premedical Honors College is the support students receive from their peers.
"Students go through four years (at UTPA) as a cohort, and then they enter medical school with those same students, who have similar goals and aspirations. They feel more comfortable in a group," she said.
During the summer following their freshman year, students in the program go to Houston for six weeks to participate in the Rice University/Baylor College of Medicine Honors Premedical Academy.
"They enroll for 9 credit hours - 3 credits for a technical communications course, 3 credits for a gross anatomy course, and 3 credits for a preceptorship with a physician or a faculty researcher at Baylor," Dr. Wedig said.
When the students return home, they spend the remaining six weeks of summer in preceptorships with local physicians.
"Since the purpose of the program is to 'grow our own' physicians, they (students) need to be aware of some of the social and cultural issues that face physicians practicing in the South Texas area," she said.
During the summer following their sophomore year, the students are encouraged to become involved in research activities by competing for off-campus research programs.
"The idea is that once these students finish their medical educations, they'll still need to keep abreast of new medical discoveries, and it will help them if they understand the research process," she said.
While undergraduates at UTPA, Premedical Honors College students major in either biology or chemistry. In addition to satisfying their undergraduate degree requirements, participants have to meet prescribed academic standards and complete premedical prerequisites before entering medical school at Baylor.
The program is limited to residents of 13 South Texas counties - Brooks, Cameron, Duval, Hidalgo, Jim Hogg, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kleberg, Nueces, Starr, Webb, Willacy and Zapata.
For more information or an application, contact Cindy Blanco in the UTPA Office of Admissions at 956/381-2735 or Dr. Wedig in the UTPA Department of Biology at 956/316-7025.