Friday, February 23, 2024
  Health, Student Life

By News and Internal Communications

By Heriberto Perez-Zuñiga

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – One question seemed to edge out the others: What does it take to be a medical student at the UTRGV School of Medicine?

Prospective students had a chance to find answers to that and other questions during Shadow Day, a special, first-time event in which they got to step into the shoes of UTRGV’s current medical students.

Presented by the Student National Medical Association, in conjunction with the School of Medicine Admissions and the Joint Admissions Medical Program, Shadow Day allowed students aspiring to attend medical school to network with current med students, tour the UTRGV campus and participate in a clinical skills exercise.


Bria Okere, a second-year medical student at the UTRGV School of Medicine and president of the UTRGV chapter of the Student National Medical Association, said undergrad students got an up-close look at what medical school is like.

“They also were able to get in touch with mentors that they can reach out to when they start the application process,” she said.

Prospective UTRGV School of Medicine students participated in Shadow Day
Prospective UTRGV School of Medicine students participated in Shadow Day, where they networked with current med students, learned valuable information about the application process, toured the campus and participated in a hands-on clinical skills exercise. (UTRGV Photo by Heriberto Perez-Zuñiga)

While that process can seem intimidating, it’s not one they have to navigate on their own, Okere said, and she hopes special events like Shadow Day help demystify things.

“We focus on supporting underrepresented minority students throughout their medical school journey and illuminating their path to success,” she said. “Shadow Day is about honoring those who lit the path for us, and about lighting the path for those on their way to where we are.”


Participating prospective students got hands-on experience along with important information about navigating the application process. They heard from current students at the UTRGV School of Medicine, who volunteered as mentors and shared stories about their own medical school experiences. 

“When it comes to applying to medical school, unless you have someone who’s done it before or a guide, it can get confusing or difficult. You have to figure out everything on your own,” said Felipe Diaz Jr., a second-year student at the UTRGV School of Medicine. “These students at Shadow Day are all first-generation, just like me. I’m glad to be able to help them and mentor them.”


For many incoming students, the UTRGV School of Medicine allows them to begin their medical journey close to home. Sarah P. Gutierrez, a prospective student and Valley native, said the ability to serve her community through healthcare played a significant role in choosing UTRGV.

Students give a tour of the UTRGV School of Medicine campus
Students give a tour of the UTRGV School of Medicine campus. Sarah Gutierrez, prospective student and Valley native, listens on as student ambassadors give advice and share their experiences of their first year as medical students. (UTRGV Photo by Heriberto Perez-Zuñiga)

“I come from a family with a history of diabetes. My father had lung cancer, and he unfortunately passed away due to it. Seeing the work doctors did to help him inspired me to pursue the medical field,” Gutierrez said. “I want to pursue primary care and help my community. I hope to one day be able to help patients control their diabetes, or help prevent some cancers from progressing through diagnostics.”

She said she is thankful for events like Shadow Day, and for the valuable firsthand information about medical school. One day, she said, she hopes to attend the academic medical institution in her own back yard.

“It was a great experience,” Gutierrez said. “We got to do a clinical activity, see what the building is like, and we heard some good stories from the medical students. It helped students like me gain insight into the UTRGV School of Medicine experience.”

For more information on the admissions process, contact the UTRGV School of Medicine Admissions Office at, or call 956-296-1600.


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.