Having both parents in the medical field, it's no wonder that Briana Gonzalez was just a young girl when she realized she wanted to be a physician.
"This is what I was meant to do," she said.
The college freshman is going to fulfill her dream a little sooner than expected thanks to a revolutionary new medical education program at The University of Texas-Pan American known as A PRIME-TIME (Accelerated Professionally Relevant Integrated Medical Education Transformation in Medical Education) or the APT program. APT is intended to cut the time needed to earn a medical degree to as little as six years.
Recently, UTPA was awarded $313,377 from the UT System to support ongoing efforts in the TIME initiative. The amount includes funds for both campus-based and partnership activities.
Gonzalez is among 22 students from the Rio Grande Valley, Laredo and the Houston area who were accepted into the program. The first cohort of students attended a special pinning ceremony Aug. 2 to celebrate their completion of a two-week summer camp.
"I'm so thrilled about this program. I'm going to become a doctor faster and I will end up being a better doctor because of this program being based more on the altruistic method and the humanity part of being a doctor," Gonzalez said. "It's not necessarily just the clinical aspect that I would have found at another university."
The summer camp was an introduction to the campus, the faculty and the innovative teaching methods that will be used. In the simulation lab, the medical students worked with human patient simulation Manikins that provide life like practice to treat patients. College of Science and Mathematics Dean Dr. John Trant said the APT program is completely different from a conventional medical education curriculum.
"This is not just faster but it will make for better physicians. This is challenge-based instruction, new flipped classrooms and new criteria that we are looking for such as teamwork. This is not a competition," Trant said. "We want them to be a team, that's how you do medicine nowadays. It keeps them engaged and intrigued."
The students received their A PRIME-TIME pins, and their parents met the faculty and staff who will guide the freshmen on their journey to become physicians.
"I'm really excited. It was a lot of work completing these last two weeks. Sometimes we were sitting in the classroom in the same seat for eight hours. We learned a lot of useful information and it's just really great to be recognized for our hard work," Gonzalez said.
Her mother, Lydia Gonzalez, a lactation consultant and licensed vocational nurse, said she actually tried to discourage Briana about going into the health field.
"This is all she's ever known so we really talked to her to make sure this is what she wants to do. It's important that she enjoys what she is going to do for the rest of her life," Gonzalez said.
However, the headstrong McAllen native is determined to be a doctor, so Gonzalez said the APT program was a perfect fit.
"We are so blessed that Pan Am offered this. We had been budgeting to send her away and she was looking at several colleges in San Antonio and Houston, but when we learned about this program, we fell in love with it and just everything it has to offer. Plus she stays close to home," Gonzalez said.
The inaugural cohort of students will begin taking classes this fall. APT is a partnership between three undergraduate institutions - UTPA, University of Texas at Brownsville, and University of Texas at El Paso - as well as two medical schools - University of Texas Medical School in Houston and University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. It will also include the new medical school planned for the Valley.
To learn more about the A PRIME-TIME or APT program visit their website at www.utpa.edu/APT.