With an eye toward helping medical students reach their full potential, The University of Texas-Pan American signed an early matriculation program agreement Tuesday, May 14 with The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA).
"This partnership agreement is an important step in enhancing pre-medical educational opportunities for the students of our region and providing support for the medically underserved Rio Grande Valley," said UTPA President Dr. Miguel A. Nevárez.
"Part of the University's mission is to be a gateway for medical research that will have a positive impact on the people of our region, so we are very proud to participate in the signing of this agreement today."
Joining Nevárez at the International Trade and Technology Building were UTHSCSA leaders Dr. Francisco Cigarroa, president; Dr. Leonel Vela, regional dean, Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC); Dr. Steven Wartman, executive vice president for Academic and Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine; Dr. David Jones, School of Medicine associate dean for Admissions; and Dr. Mario Ramirez, vice president for South Texas/Border Initiatives.
The Medical School Early Matriculation Program (MSEMP) allows students with academic excellence and a demonstrated interest in medicine to receive early acceptance and matriculation to the Health Science Center's School of Medicine. Students will receive a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from UTPA and a Doctor of Medicine degree within seven years.
"Today's signing with our colleagues at The University of Texas-Pan American is a great milestone for the Health Science Center," Cigarroa said. "The early acceptance program we are putting in place will increase our ability to educate and train aspiring physicians who have a keen interest in the people, interests and special concerns of the Lower Rio Grande Valley.
"We anticipate that many of these students will do their third- and fourth-year studies in the Regional Academic Health Center, both in research at the Edinburg campus and in medical rotations at the Harlingen campus."
A joint Medical School-UTPA faculty selection committee will select applicants based on their academic potential and proven interest in studying medicine. Participants then must complete at least 96 hours at UTPA and attend summer enrichment programs at UTHSCSA.
After satisfying both academic and non-academic requirements at UTPA, students will be admitted to the School of Medicine. "We are excited to offer this opportunity to qualified UT Pan Am students," Wartman said.
"This program is a three-plus-four program, whereby the first year in Medical School counts as the student's fourth year at UT Pan Am," Jones said. "We are shortening by one year the time required to become a physician, which saves the students both time and money."
The early matriculation agreement complements the Hidalgo County Medical Research Division of the RAHC, which will be located adjacent to UTPA. The UTHSCSA will operate the Edinburg-based research facility and the Medical Education Division facility in Harlingen.
The Medical Research Division facility will include a laboratory animal resources facility, a Level 3 biological safety laboratory, offices and other lab space. Construction is expected to begin this year and be completed within 18 months.
The RAHC will increase the number of physician-training opportunities in the region, and it is expected that many, if not most, RAHC students will choose to practice in the Valley. Historically, medical students participating in clinical rotations in the region have strongly recommended the clinical experience to their peers.