As 2013 rolls in, the future of student health care at The University of Texas-Pan American looks bright. Dr. Cristel Escalona has taken full-time medical residency at Student Health Services (SHS) and is now seeing patients. Along with the myriad of medical services SHS already offers, students will now be able -for the first time on campus- visit with a full-time medical doctor.
"Since I was young, I always had a fascination with the complexities of the human body, how we function, and how illness affects the body in so many ways. I am definitely a people person and truly have a desire to take care of people with their health and well-being," she said.
While at UTPA, Escalona not only conducted countless hours of research in the lab, she also played tennis on the women's team, and enjoyed taking classes in other disciplines.
"Obviously I loved my chemistry classes, but believe it or not, my favorite class was an archeology class I took with Dr. Thomas Pozorski. His knowledge on Peruvian archeology is incredible and it's so cool when I see him on The History Channel," she said.
Although preparing for medical school as an undergraduate is no easy feat, Escalona shared some insightful tips on how to get ready to be successful at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, where she obtained her Doctor of Medicine in 2004. Since then, Escalona has held various medical positions from Edinburg to Brownsville, primarily in hospital pediatric care.
"In high school, I volunteered at a hospital to make sure I wanted to work with sick people-which is something I advise students to do before deciding to pursue a career in medicine. You want to make sure it is something you really want to do," she said. "As long as you take all the pre-requisites for medical school, you don't have to major in science to go to medical school. So study your passion and make sure the path to becoming a doctor is something you want to commit yourself to."
As the resident physician of UTPA, Escalona oversees the physician assistants and nurse practitioners, treats patients by providing well-woman exams, STD screening, mental health care, and sports physicals, and, most importantly, promotes immunizations.
"Immunizations are a big deal. We want to focus on preventative health, so we encourage the students to get their vaccines to prevent them from getting sick to begin with," she said. "It is my hope that all students take advantage of the services we provide. Utilize the health services your tuition already pays for."
Escalona is excited for the SHS at UTPA and her energetic attitude toward health and wellness is contagious.
"I love helping the younger generation - they are my favorite kind of patients," she said.
The Student Health Services building is located adjacent to the Wellness and Recreational Sports Center on Sugar Road. For complete information on the services SHS provides, visit the website www.utpa.edu/studenthealth or call (956) 665-2511.