May 4, 2001
Volume XXXIV, No. 18


Of Note


Medical students explore RAHC opportunities

Group Photo at hospital (L-R) Dr. Leonel Vela, regional dean; Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa, president; first-year medical students Megan Way, Bonnie Kim, Phillip Hill, Andreea Popovici and James Juarez; Dr. Steven A. Wartman, executive vice president for academic and health affairs and dean of the Medical School; Adam Frome, MS-I; and Dr. Muhammad T. Subhani are pictured at Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen. VBMC is a primary training site for residents in the Medical Education Division of the Regional Academic Health Center. Dr. Subhani is a neonatologist at VBMC, where the students visited the neonatal unit.

First-year medical students at the Health Science Center have begun rotating through Harlingen, the site of the Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC) Medical Education Division scheduled to open in July 2002.

Over a six-month period, 90 students from the class of 2004 are spending six days apiece in Harlingen, evaluating the city and the RAHC as the possible location of their third and fourth years of Medical School. While in the Valley, the first-year students continue their classwork via teleconferencing, video conferencing, Internet lectures and CDs. At the same time, they receive an overview of the Rio Grande Valley's medical resources and its unique medical problems by shadowing private practice physicians.

"The levels of excellence in education at the RAHC will equal if not exceed what is available in San Antonio," said Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa, president.

The geographically separate campus will maintain the Medical School standards and will be able to offer unique insights in the practice of medicine because of its location. Dr. Cigarroa said students will be attracted to the RAHC by the opportunity to practice community medicine, a slightly different perspective on delivering health care. "I had similar experiences making rounds with my father in Laredo," he said.

"The students will get extraordinary exposure to educational opportunities here," said Dr. Steven A. Wartman, dean of the Medical School and executive vice president for academic and health affairs, during a visit to Harlingen. He noted that Valley Baptist Medical Center, Su ClĖnica Familiar, private clinics and colonia projects will be the clinical settings for RAHC students. He predicted that many of the visiting students will become strong proponents of the RAHC program.

In July 2002, the RAHC will welcome its first group of 24 third-year students into accredited programs in internal medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, pediatrics, surgery, psychiatry and family practice medicine. Clerkship electives for fourth-year students will begin one year later.

Comments from the students in early rotations at the RAHC were positive and confirmed that the visit provided a good introduction to clinical teaching in Harlingen. "There are many more opportunities here for students to learn than I had imagined," one student said. "It has helped me see the great opportunities and reflect on it (the RAHC) as being a possibility for third and fourth year," said another.

Dr. Leonel Vela, regional dean in the Medical School and the leader charged with overseeing the RAHC, said the clinical faculty will be drawn mainly from community practitioners. The principal outpatient training site for RAHC programs, Su ClĖnica Familiar, is under construction near the RAHC. Su ClĖnica already serves as a site for internal medicine and ob/gyn clinical training rotations for selected third- and fourth-year medical students.