Tuesday, October 13, 2020
  Around Campus

By News and Internal Communications

By Dimitra Trejo 

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – With the new academic year underway at the UTRGV School of Medicine, the Office of Admissions continues its recruitment process for medical school candidates.  

During the season, the staff pitches the School of Medicine’s opportunities to candidates across the county via an admissions committee of 18 faculty members and four student leaders who work to provide critical information about the resources and opportunities available.  

With the challenges of COVID-19 hovering over every aspect of life, however, the School of Medicine’s admissions efforts have had to change, with in-person recruitment on hold. 

Betty Monfort, senior assistant dean for Admissions for the UTRGV School of Medicine, said the experience so far has been unique, but the problems they have faced because of the pandemic are not unique to just one institution. 

“Our School of Medicine, along with 14 other medical schools in the state of Texas, usually partake in a number of college fairs. That is part of the recruitment process, and we all know each other,” she said. “With COVID-19, all of the medical schools including ours had to get creative for our recruitment efforts, and it has been extremely laborious.”  

The Admissions Committee and admission team are responsible for reviewing the applications, interviewing candidates and accepting or rejecting them, with some placed on a waitlist. 

“Admissions is 24/7,” Monfort said of the complex process. 

One big help is the Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Services (TMDSAS) – the centralized application processing service for applicants to first-year, entering classes at all public medical, dental and veterinary schools in Texas that makes it easier to apply to their school of choice.   

TMDSAS simplifies the application process for both the applicants and the participating schools by providing one standardized application, thereby relieving students of the need to complete a separate application for each school they want to apply to.  

Monfort says that centralized process means all medical schools in Texas have a unified approach to the issues they have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that has been helpful.  

“We all keep in touch,” she said. “We pick up the phone and have productive conversations because we interview the same candidates. This year, every single medical school in the state is doing some sort of remote interview process. It’s a pandemic, and we realized it was all or nothing and we had to go virtually.”  



Betty Monfort
Betty Monfort, senior assistant dean for Admissions, UTRGV School of Medicine. (UTRGV Photo by Jenny Galindo)

Monfort says interview day – when potential students meet the School of Medicine’s faculty, staff and leadership – is a crucial part of the selections process. It also is an opportunity for the staff to learn more about potential students.  

That important personal note is missing this year because of COVID-19. Now, interviews have be conducted in other ways.  

“The challenge is adapting a new system to virtual platforms,” Monfort said, “so we do not lose the soft skills and other personable traits we would otherwise see in the interview processes for candidates.”  

Monfort, who has been involved in recruitment efforts for more than 30 years at medical schools in other universities, including Florida International University in Miami and Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, said going virtual has been a different undertaking altogether.  

“For me personally, I’m technically challenged,” she said. “I started doing this with cue cards many years ago. I am blessed to have a staff that is very well prepared with the new tools we need to keep working. I am on Zoom from eight in the morning until six at night.” 

Still, despite the setbacks, the new processes have not deterred the interest of applicants, she said.  

“We are keeping up with the times and I’m happy to say that this pandemic has not hindered the amount or caliber of applicants we have received,” Monfort said. “In fact, our team is very impressed with the potential medical students who have applied. Applicants have welcomed and accommodated to our new systems of operating.”  

 This year, they asked applicants to send in a video answering questions like, “As a medical student, what is a main concern for the region in the time of this pandemic?”  

“The replies we got were so insightful, and a great testimony to the type of students the UTRGV School of Medicine will be training,” she said.  



Even given virtual, technological and social challenges, the UTRGV School of Medicine’s percentage of applicants for the Class of 2025 is up 31 percent, and more than 7,300 applications have been started for the Class of 2025 as well.

“This is record-setting,” Monfort said. “We have delayed the deadline until Oct. 30, and I’m not surprised at the amount of interest we’ve received.” 

Monfort connects the pandemic and the ensuing economic recession to people’s interest in searching for higher education opportunities in the medical field.  

“Every time there is a recession or an anomaly, people go back to school,” she said. “When 9-11 happened, there was a big increase in criminal justice degrees. Students aren’t running away because they are scared. They are coming to us and saying, ‘Teach me, I want to help.’ Which is great.” 



The UTRGV School of Medicine Office of Admissions has been working on developing virtual environments and tours where potential medical students can learn more about the school and region. Before COVID-19, applicants would have been able to visit in person. 

“Our forte has always been in-person, including a full interview day where the potential medical students come on campus to meet our faculty, speak to our current students, receive a financial aid overview, and visit surrounding areas and clinics,” Monfort said. “We can’t do that this year, so we are initiating virtual tours of our facilities and resources.”  

The virtual tours is moderated by a medical student and is intended to provide an immersed experience of the medical school. The tour will lead applicants through the School of Medicine, where they will learn about the amenities, including anatomy labs and wellness centers, hear messages from faculty and leadership, and get a better picture of what the institution has to offer.  

Monfort said developing the virtual tour to accommodate applicants has been a joint effort with other school of medicine departments, and will benefit potential students looking to make a decision on which medical school to attend.  

She said she hopes for a time when the traditional form of recruitment is again the norm. But until then, she and the team are ready to interact and recruit potential medical students however they can.  

“We are available anytime, and there is always a team member in our admissions office five days a week,” Monfort said. “This new process of recruitment is like a new shoe. You wear it until it becomes comfortable. I’m confident we will succeed.” 

For more information on admission to the UTRGV School of Medicine visit, https://www.utrgv.edu/som/admissions/index.htm


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.