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The Hearst Foundation gives $100,000 toward UTPA's Premedical Honors College
Posted: 04/20/2012
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The University of Texas-Pan American's Premedical Honors College (PHC) Program with the Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) received a shot in the arm recently with the receipt of $100,000 from The Hearst Foundation.

Dr. Michael Gorena (BS '98) and his wife Dr. Maria Lozano-Gorena (BS '99), both participants in the UTPA's Premedical Honors College, are pictured at their graduation from Baylor College of Medicine in 2003. Both are now anesthesiologists at Rio Grande Regional Medical Center in McAllen.
The funds will go to support the successful initiative begun in 1994 to improve the matriculation of underrepresented minorities to medical school and increase the number of physicians practicing in the medically underserved South Texas region.

The PHC combines an academically challenging undergraduate program at UTPA with conditional acceptance to BCM in Houston. During the program, students receive strong academic support and mentorship, hands-on clinical experiences, enrichment activities such as summer research and shadowing opportunities, and scholarship assistance.

"It is a very well conceptualized program that has been proven to succeed and has made a huge difference in your area," said Catherine Pyke, The Hearst Foundation program officer. "I met a number of the program's students and they were so impressive and so committed to medicine, to your region, and to really making a huge difference in the world. I'm very excited about the grant."

According to UTPA's PHC director Dr. Cindy Wedig, 87 percent of PHC graduates have been admitted to medical school since the program's inception and in the past three years 98 percent have been accepted into medical school, compared to the 35 percent of all applicants in Texas who are admitted.

"The program provides strong preparation for medical school," said Wedig. "Our students have reported that they are equally prepared as graduates of Harvard or Rice. Many alumni of the program have said that they would not have made it through medical school without the program."

Edinburg native Dr. Michael Gorena (BS '98) said he and his wife Dr. Maria Lozano-Gorena (BS '99) may not have been where they are today without the PHC.

The couple met while PHC students at UTPA. He was a student in the PHC's first entering class in 1994, she in the class of 1995. They both graduated from the Baylor College of Medicine in 2003 and are practicing anesthesiologists at Rio Grande Regional Medical Center in McAllen.

"It really helped guide us in what to do, how to prepare for medical school. I feel like the education I got here at Pan Am was incredible. When I got to medical school I felt very well prepared," Michael said.

As a son of a teacher in a single income household, Michael said money was tight and the program helped him financially as well.

"I had friends coming out of med school with debts like $300,000 to $400,000 for medical school and their undergraduate education. Because of the program, I didn't have take out as many loans as others to finish medical school," he said.

Premedical Honors College student Stephanie Rico (center), who will graduate May 2012 from UTPA and enter Baylor College of Medicine in July 2012, is pictured with Dr. Ashraful Hoque (mentor) and Dr. Shine Chang (grant writer) during a Summer 2011 internship at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, one of the enrichment activities facilitated by the PHC for its students. Rico's poster presentation was on "Dietary Magnesium and Calcium Intake and Risk of Prostate Cancer in Caucasian and African American Men."
Michael said he and his wife enjoy being back home and helping patients in the community that they grew up in.

"I think it helps you take better care of your patients when you understand their culture and beliefs," said Michael, who along with his wife, have contributed their own support back to the program. "It would be nice to see more Valley kids in the program and hopefully get some of them to come back here."

The PHC program has had a significant impact in a number of ways, Wedig said. Quite a few of the 102 program graduates who have earned their medical degrees have returned to the South Texas region.

"As of now, Hidalgo County is no longer classified as medically underserved, huge progress since the commencement of this program. We have also trained a number of Hispanic physicians who are now medical school faculty members," Wedig said.

Additionally, because of the PHC, UTPA has attracted some very capable and qualified students and the reputation of the University and our biology department has improved dramatically, Wedig said.

"Other schools have implemented partnerships with UTPA as a result of the Baylor program, including Galveston and San Antonio and the statewide JAMP (Joint Admission Medical Program) was developed using the Baylor program as a model," she said.

UTPA's Associate Vice President for University Advancement Lydia Aleman said the generous support from The Hearst Foundation will allow the program to provide students additional resources, like the MCAT review course, maintain a newsletter for PHC students and alumni and to assist with paid summer internships and preceptorships as well as more scholarship opportunities.

"Despite the successes of the Premedical Honors College program with the Baylor College of Medicine, Hispanics still remain seriously underrepresented in the health care professions nationally and in Texas. The Hearst Foundation's support of this program is helping to maintain this critical pipeline of producing Hispanic medical professionals, who then return to our community to treat our patients, enhance our economy and become potential donors themselves," Aleman said. "We are thankful that the foundation wants to make this tremendous investment in the future."

The Hearst Foundations support organizations working in the fields of education, health, culture and social service with the goal of ensuring that people of all backgrounds have the opportunity to build healthy, productive and inspiring lives. The charitable goals of the Foundations reflect the philanthropic interests of William Randolph Hearst. The Hearst Foundation, Inc. was founded in 1945 by publisher/philanthropist William Randolph Hearst. In 1948, Hearst established the California Charities Foundation, renamed the William Randolph Hearst Foundation in 1951. Both foundations are national private philanthropies operating independently from The Hearst Corporation.

If you would like to learn more about giving to UTPA, please contact the Development Office at (956) 665-5301.