Pathway starts in eighth grade; nurtures students’ passions

  Friday, December 10, 2021

By Karen Villarreal

HARLINGEN, TEXAS – UTRGV is partnering with the Harlingen School of Health Professions on a special academic program designed to help students make informed decisions about health-related studies at the university when they graduate high school. 

A ceremonial signing for the partnership was held Dec. 7 at the Harlingen School of Health Professions.

UTRGV President Guy Bailey said that through campus experiences at UTRGV and exposure to healthcare-related careers beginning as early as eighth grade, students will be able to start thinking seriously about a future career early on, before they’re even in college. 

“In doing so, we can give them a leg up on everybody else,” Bailey said.  

Veronica Kortan, Harlingen CISD assistant superintendent for leadership and innovation, said the redefined curriculum and student experiences are intended to help students identify the right medical pathway for them. Those experiences include UTRGV campus tours, job shadowing, and dual enrollment opportunities, all of which supplement the six academic pathways offered at the high school until the first year of enrollment in UTRGV’s health-related academic programs.   

“Your favorite doctors are the ones who are passionate about what they do,” Kortan said. “Our students will build a résumé like no other high school student, and find the path in medicine they are committed to.” 



Dr. Adrian Barrera, an alumnus of the UTRGV School of Medicine, said he didn’t get this sort of guidance when he was in high school in Rio Grande City, and that made his path difficult.  

Now doing his residency in Harlingen with the UTRGV Psychiatry program, Barrera said he is glad students will have more pathways to making a decision about their future.  

“I'm thankful we have something like this for students interested in those fields,” he said. “Nurturing those interests – or even finding out you don’t want to go into that field – it’s a good thing, either way.”   

Dr. Alicia Noyola, superintendent of the Harlingen school district, said it is important to give students years of exploration, so they can find what they really love to do. 

“If we can feed our medical community with students who know where their passion is, our community will be better off for that,” she said.


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.