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Occupational therapy student receives award (5/19/98)

Joni Thomas, an occupational therapy student at The University of Texas-Pan American, has received the first Dr. Mario E. Ramirez Award of Excellence.

The award will be given to one graduating senior each year to recognize professionalism and dedication to service, said Judy Bowen, associate professor and coordinator of the program.

"I am so grateful to be chosen," Thomas said. She is a member of UT-Pan Am's inaugural class in occupational therapy. The program started in 1996 with support from the South Texas/Border Region Health Education Initiative. Thomas was an assistant registrar at UT-Pan Am at the time. She holds degrees in business and sports administration.

"What appeals to me about occupational therapy is working with people one-on-one," Thomas said when she began the program. She will complete her clinical instruction and receive her bachelor's degree in December. A graduate of Edinburg High School, she plans to practice in the Rio Grande Valley.

Dr. Ramirez is a pioneering physician who began practice in 1950 in Roma, a small city in rural Starr County. For many years, he was the only physician in the area. He is a former member of the University of Texas System Board of Regents and the Texas Higher

Education Coordinating Board. Dr. Ramirez is vice president of South Texas/Border Initiatives with The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, which provides the occupational therapy degree.

The program's 15 seniors and five full-time and adjunct faculty members voted on candidates for the award.

Contact: Jim Barrett (210) 567-2570