Wednesday, December 12, 2018

By Jennifer Berghom

HARLINGEN, TEXAS – In an effort to cultivate more homegrown health providers, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is entering into a new partnership with the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District.

UTRGV and Harlingen CISD on Tuesday, Dec. 11, signed a letter of intent to create a pipeline to help students in the Harlingen High School of Health Professions prepare for entering the university’s Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences (BMED) program and the UTRGV School of Medicine.

The university and school district are developing a memorandum of understanding that will define the relationship in greater detail.

“This exciting new partnership helps expand our mission to build a robust workforce in the healthcare sector and increase the number of Rio Grande Valley students enrolled in medical school and health professions programs,” said Dr. John H. Krouse, executive vice president for Health Affairs and dean of the UTRGV School of Medicine.

“This partnership will provide a pathway for local students who are interested in careers related to medicine and other health professions to train and practice here,” he said.

Under this initial agreement, UTRGV will work with Harlingen CISD to develop a robust curriculum and offer counseling and advisement to students so that they are well prepared to apply to UTRGV and the BMED program. 

Dr. Saraswathy Nair, associate professor and chair of the UTRGV Department of Health and Biomedical Sciences, said university and Harlingen school district employees are still working out the details of the partnership, but the intent is to ensure that high school students who are interested in pursuing careers in medicine and healthcare have a strong knowledge of the science and mathematics required of those professions.

Nair said she hopes this partnership also will help retain some of the top-performing students in the area, who often leave the Valley to pursue postsecondary education at Ivy League schools or flagship institutions. She also hopes that, by having the university work with the schools, other promising students will become more competitive candidates for medical school and graduate programs in other healthcare-related fields.

“We would like to retain some of them in the hope that they will choose to practice on the border and that there will be more access to healthcare, addressing health disparities,” she said. “The idea is really long term in improving health disparities in the area.”

The pipeline program will begin recruiting rising high school juniors in spring 2019, and expects to enroll about 20 students who are interested in attending UTRGV when they graduate high school for its first cohort in the fall of 2019. 

Dr. Art Cavazos, superintendent of the Harlingen CISD, said the district is excited to expand its partnership with UTRGV and for the opportunities for students it will create.

“In collaboration with UTRGV, we are creating a pipeline that will prepare students for matriculation into a postsecondary medical program,” Cavazos said. “The medical industry is one of the fastest-growing areas in the Valley, and HSHP was designed specifically with that in mind. This new program is just another way we continue to position our students at the front of the line for opportunities.” 


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.