Since 1994 when the Premedical Honors College (PHC) program - a cooperative program between The University of Texas-Pan American and Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston - began, eight students have graduated from BCM and another six are expected to graduate this year.
"The Baylor College of Medicine is so proud of our relationship with UT Pan American. We see our relationship with UTPA as enriching our college a great deal because we are able to bring the brightest and most talented people from the Valley to Baylor College of Medicine and that is a real privilege for us. We hope this partnership will continue for many years," Traber said.
The plaque will not only include the names of current graduates, but also future doctors in the making. Currently, UTPA has 56 students enrolled in the program, while 32 PHC students are enrolled at BCM.
"I think it is one of the best programs in the nation for bringing young people into the medical profession and ensuring that a large percentage of them will really meet the needs of the underserved population of South Texas medical care," Traber said.
Traber, who visited UTPA for the first time since being named BCM president and CEO in March 2003, took the opportunity to meet with current students in the program as well as UTPA and PHC administrators during a luncheon.
Traber said the students that come out of the PHC program are top notch and he has been very impressed with their leadership skills.
"I think the student quality is excellent, and the things I have been impressed with are that they show a great deal of focus, poise and maturity for that level of student," Traber said.
Eventually Traber said he would like to see the PHC program not only serve as a state model, but also a national model for other universities. The overall goal of the Premedical Honors College program is to increase the number of physicians practicing in the medically underserved region of South Texas.
"The general goal of the program is to educate the next leaders in medicine who will help transform the medical care and subsequently the level of health, economy and great life here in the Valley," he said.
Dr. John Edwards, vice president for Enrollment and Student Services, accepted the plaque on behalf of UTPA and talked about the legacy these two institutions have created for the students of South Texas.
"Here we are nine years later honoring those whose names are etched here on this plaque. The names etched here not only represent the grand work by UTPA and Baylor faculty and staff, but they also represent many years of toil for the students and their families," Edwards said. " These names not only represent students from UTPA who have aspired and dreamed for this goal, but also some who have had their goals deferred or even diverted. Many students and their lives have been touched by this program."
PHC provides students with rigorous academic preparation for medical school as well as summer clinical, enrichment, and research programs and experiences to improve preparation for medical school. There is an eight-year tuition and fee scholarship, which covers undergraduate and medical education. On average, the program receives 150 to 200 applicants per year.
Crystal Ray Solis, a freshman from Los Fresnos who attended the luncheon, said she has always been interested in medicine and when UTPA sent her an application to apply for the program, Solis said she took a chance and made the cut.
"The only reason I came here was for the program. I really love it at UTPA," Solis said. "I really like it here and I never thought of leaving the Valley, especially with this program here, where you become a doctor and then come back and practice in the Valley. It was perfect for me."
David Berger, a sophomore from Mission, said he was attracted to the Premedical Honors College because he had never heard of a program like this at any other campus.
"I've never seen anything like this anywhere else, where all four years of college are taken care of and you practically are guaranteed acceptance into medical school and on top of that a full medical school scholarship," Berger said. "That lifts an enormous weight off my shoulders knowing that I don't have to be unsure of whether or not I'm going to get into medical school because I know I'm getting in. That just gives me much more incentive to work and to learn."
Students begin the eight-year long program as entering freshmen and are offered conditional acceptance to Baylor College of Medicine upon completion of undergraduate requirements at UTPA.
The conditional acceptance requires students to maintain a 3.2 minimum overall GPA (on a 4.0 scale), and a 3.0 minimum science GPA, and to score a minimum of 26 on the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) with no section less than seven.
Dr. Cindy Wedig, PHC program coordinator, said every year each entering freshman or class seems to be more competitive in terms of entering SAT scores and how they prepare for the program in high school.
"I've been involved in this program since it began in 1994 and it has been truly rewarding to watch the students go from innocent, entering freshmen to medical professionals," Wedig said.