By Amanda Taylor, Special to the Star
The UTRGV School of Medicine, in partnership with the Honors College, has announced a new early-assurance, pre-med program for high school students throughout the Rio Grande Valley.
Vaqueros MD, designed to increase the number of high-achieving high school students who enroll and complete their medical education close to home, will be available for select students starting Nov. 1.
“This program will identify and select highly talented high school students who will earn their undergraduate degrees at UTRGV,” said Dr. John H. Krouse, executive vice president for Health Affairs at UTRGV and dean of the School of Medicine. “At the same time, these students will be accepted into our Honors College, where they will receive conditional acceptance into the UTRGV School of Medicine to enter the Class of 2024.”
Up to five candidates will be chosen for the program through a competitive selection process, with the application process opening Nov. 1, 2019, and ending in January 2020.
To enter the program, students who are still in high school must apply and be accepted to UTRGV, and then must apply separately to the UTRGV Honors College through the online application system. Selected students will be guaranteed a seat in the School of Medicine’s entering class of 2024 if requirements for admission are met.
“This will be a pathway for students in South Texas into the university and into the Medical School here,” Krouse said. “At present, 32 percent of our student body in the School of Medicine are residents of the Rio Grande Valley; it is our goal to make that 50 percent.”
The program is open to high school juniors and seniors in South Texas who are interested in applying to UTRGV and have an interest in attending medical school or other health-related professional programs after earning their undergraduate degree.
McAllen native Patrick O. Ojeaga III, a third-year medical student in the UTRGV School of Medicine, said programs like these make the idea of graduating from medical school attainable.
“I came back home to serve this area and learn and train where I was born and raised and learn from this community, where there is so much health disparity,” said Ojeaga, an undergraduate from UT Austin. “Programs like this early assurance program are incredible for high school students who can look forward to becoming a medical student and know that it’s attainable close to home.”
The program itself is a game changer for the area, said UTRGV President Guy Bailey.
“We have some of the best students in the United States,” Bailey said. “We’ve exported that talent for a long time. It’s time to keep that talent here, in the Valley.”
Once accepted to the UTRGV Honors College, students choose the School of Medicine’s Early Assurance Program (EAP).
Preferences for UTRGV’s EAP admission will be given to students who:
• Are the first-generation to attend college.
• Graduated from a Title 1 high school.
• Are eligible for need-based grants.
• And express and support an interest in a high-need medical specialty area.
“What we want to do is transform the Valley and this is a major step in doing that,” Bailey said. “We really appreciate everybody in the Medical School who has worked hard to make this happen.”
A complete list of requirements is available on the website at https://www.utrgv.edu/som/admissions/requirements/index.htm. For more details, contact VaquerosMD@utrgv.edu or call (956) 296-1600.