UTEP Helps Medical School Pathway for UT Students
By Stephanie Sanchez
The University of Texas at El Paso has been awarded a $1.5 million grant to help develop a pilot program to increase minority medical student enrollment, while decreasing the time and expense required to complete medical school.
The funds are part of a $4 million grant awarded in May by The University of Texas System Board of Regents in support of the Transformation in Medical Education (TIME) initiative. The initiative addresses challenges in physician education, including duplication of undergraduate and graduate courses and the high cost of earning a medical degree.
UTEP heads up one of four partnerships in the UT System working to create pilot programs for TIME over the next two years. The UTEP partnership includes The University of Texas at Brownsville, The University of Texas-Pan American, The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
Donna Ekal, Ph.D., associate provost for undergraduate studies and primary investigator for the UTEP grant, said the goal of the initiative is to increase the number and diversity of doctors, while shortening their time in a classroom to 6 or 7 years instead of 8 years. This will decrease the student’s overall education expense.
The program will provide opportunities for more Hispanic students to enter medical school, she said, reflecting the 21st century population.
Hispanics and African-Americans comprise more than one quarter of the U.S. population, but only 7 percent of practicing physicians, according to Dr. Steven Lieberman, vice dean of academic affairs at UTMB. Lieberman is also the co-chair for the TIME initiative.
TIME is aimed at developing undergraduate pre-health professions programs for students in a variety of health-related fields; implementing competency-based advancement and degree completion rather than time-based program completion; and creating a combination of condensed classroom education with opportunities for personal and professional growth through well-rounded liberal arts education and real-life experiences in community leadership roles.
Stephen B. Aley, Ph.D., associate dean of UTEP’s College of Science, said the initiative will not only help create physicians in a shorter timeframe, but has a goal of increasing the competency of would-be doctors because students will spend more time in clinics and labs.
“I think our students will love it. It helps them identify even more strongly if indeed they are going into a medical career. It provides experiences in the clinics and labs,” he said. “The neat part of the program is we’re coordinating this with the medical schools.”
Ekal and officials at the partner institutions will meet in July to begin the process of creating the pilot program.