Admissions trio bring years of experience, dedication to UTRGV School of Medicine

The UTRGV School of Medicine Admissions Staff consists of (from left) Wandy Velazquez, associate director of School of Medicine admissions; Betty Monfort, senior associate dean for admissions; and Sofia Montes, director of student services for the School of Medicine. (UTRGV Photo by David Pike)

By Jennifer L. Berghom

HARLINGEN, TEXAS – DEC. 21, 2015 – The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s School of Medicine will welcome its #FirstClass this summer, and three veteran admissions administrators have been hard at work to make sure those 50 chosen have a seamless transition into medical school.

Betty Monfort, senior associate dean for admissions and enrollment management for the School of Medicine; Wandy Velazquez, associate director of SOM admissions; and Sofia Montes, director of student services for the SOM, are responsible for overseeing and facilitating the process of accepting and admitting students into the medical school, as well as for assisting with the financial aid application process.

They say they came to UTRGV because they wanted to be a part of starting a new medical school that would produce more doctors for an underserved region.

Together, the trio provides key services that translate into efficiency and continuity for students applying to and entering the School of Medicine. They are a strong team – with a sense of humor. When the time came for a Halloween party and the topic of costumes arose, there was just one choice: They donned kitty ears and black shirts with an “M” on each and went as … The M-CATS, a clever nod to the grueling medical school entrance exam.

Montes, who previously worked for The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, joined UTRGV five months ago.
“It was the perfect opportunity to join a really strong team,” she said.

Her primary duties are to help with the matriculation process for School of Medicine applicants once they are admitted.

“We want to make sure they get settled in, that they get registered, that they get financial aid awarded, that we identify as many scholarships as possible for them to provide tuition relief, so that that isn’t a concern of theirs while they’re busy trying to complete their rigorous curriculum,” she said.

The inaugural class already has 80 percent of its tuition covered by scholarships, she said.

Monfort — who has three decades worth of experience in medical school administration and helped start the medical schools at Florida International University in Miami and Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, as well as a medical school in Qatar for Cornell – said she has “saved the best for last” in setting up the admissions and enrollment for the UTRGV School of Medicine.

“What (UTRGV School of Medicine Inaugural Dean) Frank Fernandez has done here is, he took his time and he picked the ‘tree of life,’ as I call it. He picked the best and the brightest in choosing faculty and administrators that are just – well, if I had to do a virtual medical school, I would pick the same people.”

For the past several months, Monfort and her team have been working tirelessly to set up the system of selecting and enrolling students and making sure it runs smoothly.

Monfort said she recruited Velazquez, whom she calls a logistics guru, to spearhead creation of the admissions and enrollment system.

All three say they were delightfully surprised by how many applications came in, in a very short time.

UTRGV’s School of Medicine received 2,784 applications in the three weeks after opening up the process in October.

“They thought we wouldn’t have enough applications to get a class, but the applications just kept coming,” Monfort said. “We had something like 1,300 in the first couple of days. The floodgates opened and there they came.”

Velazquez, who worked in admissions for The University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, and helped establish the medical school at the University of Central Florida in Orlando before joining UTRGV, said the UTRGV School of Medicine probably would have received even more applications, had they been able to begin the process in May – which is when medical schools typically start taking applications from students.

UTRGV had to wait until it received preliminary accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) in mid-October, and then received applications from students who already had applied to other medical schools through the Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service or the American Medical College Application Service, because the deadline to apply was Oct. 1.

“I think that what is going on here is something very special,” Velazquez said. “The mission of this medical school is different from the mission of where I come from. We’re very focused now on keeping the doctors here in the Valley, so even when they go away to do their residency, we are hoping that they come back, and give back to their community. From the admissions point of view, we’re very focused on recruiting local students who are qualified and committed to coming back.”

Classes for the UTRGV School of Medicine start June 27, 2016.

UTRGV Director of News and Internal Communications
956-665-2742 UTRGV Director of Public Relations