Publication ranks rehab program first in the nation
Contact: Melissa Vasquez, Senior Editor 956/381-2741
Posted: 06/18/2007
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The College of Health Sciences and Human Services at The University of Texas-Pan American now boasts the number one rehabilitation program in the nation for graduating Hispanics according to Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education.

The publication's report, released June 4, highlighted two popular professions in the health care field - nursing and rehabilitation/therapeutics. UTPA's Department of Rehabilitation ranked first in the "Top 25 Rehabilitation/Therapeutic Schools Graduating Hispanics." In addition, the UTPA Department of Nursing ranked 13th in Hispanic Outlook's list of "Top 25 Nursing Schools Graduating Hispanics."

The report is based on 2006 statistics by the National Center for Education Statistics.

"These rankings demonstrate how important the work we do at UT Pan American is. To be ranked first in the number of Hispanics graduating with a degree in rehabilitation and 13th in nursing in the entire country is an honor," Dr. Bruce Reed, dean of the UTPA College of Health Sciences and Human Services, said.

Hispanic Outlook reported the rehabilitation/therapeutic professions are "an increasingly popular health-care career choice for Hispanics and others." In 2006, UTPA awarded 86 percent of the rehabilitation degrees to Hispanics. A total of 63 degrees were awarded with 54 going to Hispanics, 37 females and 17 males.

"The majority of our students are from the area in which roughly 87 percent of the people identify as Hispanic - the student body in our college reflects this percentage also," Reed said.

Reed said he not only credits the top ranking to the students, but also to the department's faculty, who pride themselves in their "open door policy."

"The majority of our students appreciate the 'open door' style that many of our professors have - that professors are there to help the students succeed," he said.

Florida International University ranked second while Loma Linda University in California finished third in the Top 25 list for rehabilitation/therapeutic schools.

With the fields of health and human service care understaffed with trained and bilingual professionals, Reed said UTPA's rehabilitation program is frequently contacted by employers in South Texas and across the nation looking for graduates.

Reed said the Department of Rehabilitation has grown from two faculty members in 1992 to the current 11 members, making the department one of the largest in the field and the country.

By fall 2008, the Department of Rehabilitation is hoping to begin its doctoral program in rehabilitation counselor education, which has been approved by The University of Texas System and is being considered by the Higher Education Coordinating Board. In addition, the undergraduate program is also undergoing major growth due to increased specialty options in the areas of addictions counseling and deaf studies said Reed.

The UTPA nursing department awarded 70 percent of the degrees to Hispanics in 2006. Fifty-six of the 80 degrees went to Hispanics, 45 to females and 11 to males.

Dr. Carolina Huerta, chair of the nursing department, said UTPA's program has been supplying nurses for the South Texas and beyond for 40 years. She attributes the success of the program to the excellent faculty too.

"We have always produced excellent nurses who provide safe, competent care. I believe that what these rankings say is that UTPA has a quality program that produces well prepared nurses for the work force," she said.

Nursing has become a popular profession among Hispanics and others because it has traditionally been considered a "caring" profession, an attribute most students find appealing Huerta said.

"Nursing has also been identified as a 'noble' profession and I think that people who are attracted to the field understand what it means to care empathetically. Of course the fact that there are many jobs available and that nurses are adequately paid is another reason for its popularity," Huerta said.

In the future the UTPA nursing department hopes to increase its admissions to address the nursing shortage in South Texas, and work to increase the retention of currently enrolled students in the program Huerta said.