“The Premedical Honors College has been a tremendous success in many ways,” Dr. Ana Maria Rodriguez, UTPA Interim Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs, said. “The program was established in 1994 in an effort to increase the number of physicians practicing in the medically underserved South Texas region. The program also has the goal of getting more UTPA students admitted to medical school and earning their medical degrees. We have certainly been successful in all areas.”
The nine new medical doctors, and their residency assignments, include:
• David Gabriel Alonzo (B.S. ‘06), University of Miami Miller School of Medicine (Jackson Memorial Hospital) Affiliated Hospitals (General Surgery-Preliminary), Miami, Fla. (2010-2011); University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Affiliated Hospitals (Urology), Miami, Fla. (2011-2015);
• Elvia Martinez Blanco (B.S. ‘05), Baylor College of Medicine Affiliated Hospitals (Pathology), Houston;
• Matthew Benny Carroll (B.S. ‘06), Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center Affiliate Hospitals (Pediatrics), Cincinnati, Ohio;
• Jose Luis Diaz-Miron (B.S. ‘05), Washington University/Barnes-Jewish Consortium Program (General Surgery), St. Louis, Mo.;
• Wendy Ching Yuat Lai (B.S. ‘06), Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center Affiliated Hospitals (Pediatrics), Cincinnati, Ohio;
•Jose Luis Martinez, Jr. (B.S. ‘06), Indiana University School of Medicine Affiliated Hospitals (Emergency Medicine), Indianapolis, Ind.;
• Daren Delson Molina (B.S. ‘06), The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio Affiliated Hospitals (Pediatrics), San Antonio;
• Crystal Holstine Nieto (B.S. ‘06), Baylor College of Medicine Affiliated Hospitals (Emergency Medicine), Houston; and,
• Robert Lee Salazar (B.S. ‘06), Beth Israel Deaconess Center Hospital/Harvard Medical School Program (Internal Medicine), Philadelphia, Pa.
Additionally, Blanco received the Stuart A. Wallace Award for Excellence in Pathology.
“The Premedical Honors College was designed to prepare our students for the rigors of medical school. Our graduates have been very successful through this program. They are very well prepared before they leave UTPA. We expect much from our students, and they have proven themselves to be ready for the challenge. This program has been successful for our students, the University and the region,” Rodriguez said.
At the time the PHC was initiated, only 10 students from the five colleges and universities in the region were accepted into medical school, including six from UTPA. Currently, UTPA alone accounts for an average of 30 students accepted each year into medical school, with the largest group coming from the PHC.
This innovative program combines an academically challenging undergraduate program at UTPA with conditional admission to Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston. The UTPA-BCM partnership allows students who complete the PHC requirements and BCM prerequisites to be accepted at Baylor. Since the program’s inception, 87 percent of the PHC graduates have been admitted to medical school, and in the last three years that number has increased to 98 percent. This is a significant number since only 35 percent of all applicants in the State of Texas are accepted into medical school. There are 75 medical doctors who have graduated from this joint program, of which 20 are practicing and 55 are in residency and fellowship programs.
While 20 practicing physicians may seem like a major accomplishment, that small number of doctors pales against the needs of the medically underserved region of South Texas. In order to meet the growing demand for doctors, the University desperately needs to expand the program. According to the Texas Medical Association, Texas ranks 45th in the nation in the ratio of physicians to population. This is even more acute in rural areas, such as South Texas.
“The Premedical Honors College works because we have been able to develop strong financial support for it,” Rodriguez said. “However, we need to expand its support for student scholarships as well as operating expenses. Student scholarships are critical to the success of the program.”
According to Rodriguez, the University needs to find new funding, including private gifts, for the PHC to meet this critical need in primary physicians.
“We really need the UTPA community to reach into their pockets to donate to this program. Healthcare is such a critical element in our future, and we need to make sure that we have enough doctors to serve the future needs of our region. The only way to do that is for our alumni and other supporters to consider ways to fund this program. If we don’t invest in our own students to become doctors, we can’t really expect others to do it for us,” she said.
For additional information, or to make a gift, contact the Development Office at 956/665-5301.