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UTRGV School of Medicine welcomes its first class

The first cohort of The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine came together Monday, June 27, 2016, for Orientation Day. In all, 55 students from across the Valley, Texas and the country comprise the first class of future physicians.

By Jennifer L. Berghom

Meet the First Class; Timeline; Facts and Figures

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – JUNE 27, 2016 – This day has been a long time coming for McAllen resident Veronica Treviño.

Treviño, who graduated from the UTRGV legacy institution, The University of Texas-Pan American, is among the School of Medicine’s first 55 medical students.

On Monday, she and the rest of the first cohort arrived at the Medical Education Building on the Edinburg Campus for the first official roll call and orientation.

Treviño, who wants to be a pediatrician, said she is grateful to everyone who helped the longtime dream of a medical school in the Valley become a reality.

“It’s an honor to be a part of the first class,” she said. “It’s been a community effort to get to this point. We’ve had the backing of the whole Valley.”

Treviño and fellow Valley native David Ortiz, a Weslaco resident, said they are happy to be able to pursue their medical careers close to home.

“It’s good to have Mama’s cooking,” Ortiz joked.

Ortiz, who earned his undergraduate degree at Texas A&M University at College Station, is interested in child psychiatry. UTRGV was his first choice for medical school because he felt the school shared his desire to help underserved residents.

The auditorium in the brand new Medical Education Building erupted in cheers Monday morning as Betty Monfort, UTRGV School of Medicine’s senior assistant dean for Admissions and Enrollment Management, called out each student’s name for the official roll call.

Then the class came to its feet, applauding as Montfort introduced Dr. Francisco Fernandez, founding dean of the UTRGV School of Medicine. Fernandez welcomed the students, then reminded them of just how special they are.

“When you were here when you were interviewed, I was struck by one of you who, when I called you ‘pioneers’ said, ‘We’re not pioneers, I think of us as revolutionaries.’ And you are, in a sense, the charter class for change, not just in education but in many ways,” Fernandez said. “You are going to leave your footprints, your fingerprints … you will be changing in many ways even the rules of medical education.”

On their first day of orientation, students got instruction on using their new iPads, sat in on information sessions, posed for a group photo and were fitted for the white coats they will receive next month at the formal White Coat Ceremony, a longtime medical school tradition that welcomes new students.

The 55 students were selected from among 2,784 applicants for admission to the UTRGV medical school.

Of those applicants, UTRGV School of Medicine interviewed just 226 applicants and ranked 182 for admission to the medical school. Those applicants, as well, ranked the medical schools they visited for interviews. The medical school and applicant rankings were then sent to a national service to match the schools with the applicants. 

Of the 55 chosen for UTRGV, 20 are from the Rio Grande Valley, comprising 36 percent of the inaugural class. Fifteen are from Hidalgo County and five are from Cameron County.

The first cohort includes 12 graduates of UTRGV and its legacy institutions, The University of Texas-Pan American and The University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College: two from UTRGV, two from UTB/TSC and eight from UTPA.

Of the remaining students, 30 are from other parts of Texas and five are from the states of Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois and Maine.

The first class has 24 students of Hispanic ethnicity, comprising 44 percent of the class, 16 Caucasian, eight Asian/Indian, six African American and one American Indian.

In total, there are 28 women and 27 men accepted into the School of Medicine.

Included in the first class are about a half dozen non-traditional students, including military veterans, those who earned other graduate degrees, and those who worked in other health care-related fields and decided to pursue careers as doctors, Monfort said.

The next milestone for the first cohort is the White Coat ceremony, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. July 23, 2016, at the Performing Arts Complex on the Edinburg Campus.

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