UTRGV launches physician assistant track


Staff Writer

BROWNSVILLE — The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley announced on Wednesday a physician assistant career track program that will start in Spring 2020 for high school students.

The track is for students who are interested in pursuing a Master of Physician Assistant Studies degree. The program is a “pact” UTRGV offers to South Texas high school students who are “very talented and well-performing” to have a direct pathway into the master’s degree.

Students accepted will enter the Honors College and then graduate with a seat saved for them to become a physician assistant.

“In the entire Valley, we’re one of the most underserved areas from the healthcare standpoint in the country,” said John Krouse, executive vice president for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “We have many people who don’t have access to a healthcare provider, they may have to travel long distances to a healthcare provider. So if we can continue to train physicians, nurses and physician assistants and other health professionals, it will allow us at UTRGV to be the catalyst for the growth and we need to take care of this growing population in the Valley.”

UT System regent Dr. Nolan Perez, said physician assistants are a great part of the medical practice. He said people don’t realize how specialized physician assistants can become and all the different possibilities available for them in the field.

“I can tell you that physician assistants are a huge part of my own business, my own practice and it’s an incredible profession that can really have a huge impact on the health of patients,” Perez said. “Many people don’t realize how rewarding being a physician assistant is and many young students don’t realize how specialized you can become, you can be a physician assistant for a primary care doctor but you can also be a physician assistant for a specialist like me.

“These physician assistants are very specialized because they are really an expert on one field and a lot of people don’t know all the different possibilities.”

UTRGV President Guy Bailey expressed his excitement about the program and the announcement.

“This is a really exciting day,” Bailey said. “We want to make sure that our students get the same kind of educational opportunities that they could get in San Antonio, Houston, right here in the Valley because they deserve to have it in the Valley.”

Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez was also present at the event and spoke about how the program will help the city.

“Anytime you can bring higher-impact and higher-salary jobs to Brownsville is a plus,” Mendez said, “and to do it in our own town, and to really focus in bringing young students back to the community is great. The fact that we have this program here in our backyard is fantastic and it really means a lot to the community because the jobs, and the higher-paying jobs, is what we need more of and this is going to help that.”

The deadline to apply for the program is March 20, 2020, and the requirements for the program include graduating from a South Texas high school and ranking in the top 5 percent of the class.

For the full criteria, log on to UTRGV.edu/PACT.