Homeward bound: PA student plans to practice in Laredo after graduation
When she graduates from the Master of Physician Assistant Studies program in December, Carolina Gomez-Salinas will head home to give back to the community she loves.
Gomez-Salinas plans to return to practice in Laredo, where she earned her bachelor’s in biology at Texas A&M International University and participated in a program that enabled her to obtain early acceptance to the PA Studies program at UT Health San Antonio. Gomez-Salinas is the first PA Studies graduate of the Laredo Early Acceptance Program (LEAP), a collaboration with TAMIU. Students at TAMIU now may apply to the Pre-Physician Assistant Mentorship Program (PPAMP), which is designed to help students to be better prepared and competitive PA Studies applicants.
“The LEAP program perfectly aligned with my goals of going back to Laredo and helping alleviate the underserved population to serve and give back to my community, which I cherish and love,” Gomez-Salinas said.
Gomez-Salinas’ decision to practice in Laredo underscores the ultimate goal of the UT Health San Antonio-TAMIU collaboration, said Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs David Henzi, EdD.
“We are so pleased to learn that Carolina is going back to Laredo to serve the patients of Webb County,” Henzi said.
The appeal of the PA profession
Although Gomez-Salinas comes from a family with multiple generations of physicians, she didn’t always plan on a career in health care.
“For the longest time, I thought health care was not for me,” she said. “However, by the end of high school, after exploring the different options in the health care field, I came across the Physician Assistant field. I was immediately drawn to the way that PAs are so versatile.”
The ability to serve wherever there is need is exciting, she said.
“We’re like the pluripotent cell of the health professions — we adapt and grow into the environment we are placed in. Anywhere we are placed, we make it more efficient.”
Gomez-Salinas had multiple clinical rotations in Laredo, an experience that she said confirmed the need for more health care providers in the region.
“So many of the physicians give of themselves completely,” she said. “You see the compassion they have in serving their community. There is definitely a big need, and I got to witness that a bit more as a student.”
Gomez-Salinas will graduate with her MPAS classmates on Dec. 9. She is considering seeking a position in family practice or internal medicine. “I like the idea of being able to see and do a little bit of everything,” she said.
Gomez-Salinas’ preparation, academic excellence, humility and desire to give back to others sets a standard, said Assistant Professor and Clinical Coordinator Tiffani Burgin, DMSc, MPAS, PA-C.
“Carolina is a shining example of what we hope all of our graduating PA students would come out with,” Burgin said.
For Gomez-Salinas, it’s both the big things and the little things that make Laredo special — being near her family, being able to more easily visit relatives in Mexico and the all-but-guaranteed likelihood of running into someone she knows when grocery shopping, for example.
“I love the culture of Laredo. You have so much of the Mexican traditions and American traditions combined throughout the whole city.”
As she looks back on her experience in the PA program, Gomez-Salinas credits both UT Health San Antonio and TAMIU for providing support for her goal of practicing in Laredo.
“It’s great to share a common goal with the school that you are attending,” she said. “I always felt supported by both schools throughout the program, and I look forward to making them proud.”