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New agreement gives St. Mary's students a chance for early acceptance to medical school (5-16-01)

Teenage scholars in South Texas can begin their dream of a medical career under a joint early acceptance program between The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSC) and St. Mary’s University, officials announced today.

High school seniors who plan to study medicine and attend St. Mary’s can enter the Early Admissions Program for the UTHSC Medical School through the federally funded Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP), a progressive four-year summer enrichment program for academically, economically or geographically disadvantaged students. Both institutions supervise the program of six-week sessions each summer. This year, the HCOP for incoming freshmen at St. Mary’s runs June 18 through July 27.

"We are proud to partner with a distinguished institution such as St. Mary's University in this program to help South Texas young people pursue the dream of becoming physicians,” said Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., president of the Health Science Center. “The Early Admissions Program will provide a new way for outstanding students to focus on entering Medical School at the Health Science Center and to realize that dream.”

St. Mary's is noted for its strong pre-medical program in the School of Science, Engineering and Technology. “It is gratifying that St. Mary’s can collaborate with the U. T. Health Science Center to prepare the community-based doctors of tomorrow today, especially for the medically underserved in the Lower Rio Grande Valley,” said Charles L. Cotrell, Ph.D., president of St. Mary’s. “An integral part of St. Mary’s mission involves the experience and practice of educating in community.”

"We are charged with educating and training physicians for our region, from north of San Antonio to the Rio Grande,” said Steven A. Wartman, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president for health affairs at UTHSC and dean of the Medical School. “We therefore seek the best students from South Texas – those who not only are scholars but those who would make compassionate physicians. It is our goal to reach students early, in the decision times of high school and college. This agreement with St. Mary's reflects the commitment of both institutions to an ideal of excellent health care for South Texas.”

A major goal of the Early Admissions Program is to encourage medical students who grew up in the Valley to return as practicing physicians. Through the new Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC) – an outreach of the UTHSC Medical School – medical students may opt to complete their third and fourth years of clinical training in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The program will be offered at the RAHC Medical Education Division facility under construction in Harlingen and at its affiliated teaching facilities in Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy counties, all of which bear the medically underserved designation. The first group of 24 third-year RAHC medical students, who will focus on clinical rotations in primary care, will begin studying in Harlingen in July 2002.

The RAHC will increase the number of physician-training opportunities in the region, and it is expected that many, if not most, RAHC students will choose to practice in the Valley. Historically, medical students participating in clinical rotations in the region have strongly recommended the clinical experience to their peers.

Five students will be selected next spring for the Early Admissions Program. A joint Medical School-St. Mary’s faculty selection committee will make the selections based on applicants’ academic potential and proven interest in studying medicine.

“We want to support students who are accepted to the program during their undergraduate studies by providing academic enrichment and preparing them for entrance exams and Medical School courses,” said EAP coordinator Barbara Biasiolli, director of the Learning Assistance Center at St. Mary’s. Established in 1984, HCOP helps students develop the thinking, reading, writing, math and science skills necessary for pursuing a health career.

Highlights of the EAP include:

•During the academic year and the summer following their freshman year, students will be offered advising, counseling and tutoring.

•At the end of their sophomore year, students will be conditionally accepted to the Medical School if they have satisfied academic requirements. Normally the pre-professional admission requirements are complete in the summer following a pre-med student’s junior year in college.

•During the summer following their sophomore year, accepted students will participate in a six-week Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) preparation workshop.

•Students then take the MCAT in the spring of their junior year, and those who have an acceptable ratio of science GPA/MCAT scores are offered an unconditional acceptance to Medical School.

Contact: Will Sansom, U.T. Health Science Center, (210) 567-2570, or Stacy Maloney, St. Mary's University, (210) 431-4377.