BY Jennifer L. Berghom
After a weekend of high emotion and fanfare, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine’s first 55 students started classes Monday.
And, so far, so good, students said.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” medical student Gabriel Franklin said. “Things are going a lot smoother than I thought they would be.”
He and his fellow classmates spent the day learning about professionalism, social and ethical issues and related topics. Franklin, who said he is pursuing medicine because he is passionate about patient advocacy, said the first day’s session reinforced why he chose medical school at UTRGV.
“The session we had today reminded me again of why I started this journey and it reignited my passion for why I want to be here,” said Franklin, who earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Texas Denton and a master’s degree from the University of North Texas Health Science Center. “It’s like they started a fire and are keeping it kindled.”
Medical student Rafael Raya, who earned his bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said he is impressed with the faculty and how supportive they and the entire community have been to him and the other students.
“It is amazing how the community has come together around this, and we feel really supported,” Raya said. “Every day, when we go to the cafeteria, the workers there are super happy to see us, super interested in our day. They always ask how we’re doing and how classes are going, and that’s indicative of how everyone around the community has acted overall.”
Rouzbeh Kotaki, a McAllen native, said he is glad to be home and is eager to start his studies.
“We had four weeks of orientation and it was all building up to this,” Kotaki said. “I just want to go home and read and absorb all this knowledge. That makes me feel good, because that means I’m in the right place.”
Dr. Beatriz Tapia, assistant dean for Faculty Development – and co-developer of the module Medicine, Behavior and Society, which will be taught throughout the students’ first two years of study – led the first day of classes.
Tapia said leading the first class with the new curriculum was an honor and a wonderful experience.
“The energy in the room was so powerful that you could see these medical students flourish into wonderful doctors,” she said.
The students — 20 of whom are from the Rio Grande Valley, 30 from Texas and five from other states — were selected from among the 2,784 applicants for admission to the medical school.
Since their arrival in June, the students have participated in a month-long orientation that introduced them to everything from the innovative and collaborative approach that will be used to teach them medicine, to various exercises and other activities that will help them maintain wellness throughout their studies.
Their orientation culminated with the White Coat Ceremony on July 23, where they donned their short white coats and received sound advice from administrators and physicians.