March is Women's History Month

  Thursday, March 28, 2024
  Faculty Focus, Around Campus

By News and Internal Communications

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – MARCH 28, 2024 – Dr. Kelsey Baker, assistant dean of Pre-Clerkships and assistant professor of Neuroscience at the UTRGV School of Medicine, remembers the struggles she faced during her journey to where she is today.

But those struggles were valuable, she said, and have left her with a deeper understanding of the transformative power of resilience, and the importance of building a supportive community.

That’s especially true for students navigating their own academic and personal challenges, she said.

“When I was in my undergraduate studies, I struggled. I faced academic challenges as well as mental health challenges,” Baker said. “So, I went to my advisor. He told me I wasn’t cut out for science and said I should consider changing my major to something more fit for a woman of my skills.”  

Her desire to prove those words wrong, as well as her innate stubbornness, proved to be the motivators she needed to face the challenges head on. And in turn, that experience has fueled her passion to advocate for students, ensuring that those who are facing similar challenges receive the support and resources they need.


Baker is especially proud of the work she has been able to do to expand research opportunities for students at the UTRGV School of Medicine.

“I’ve never done research before” – she has heard that phrase countless times in her office from students hesitant to take the plunge into the world of research. Baker herself is intrinsically familiar with those words, having faced similar doubts during her own time as a student.

Under Baker’s guidance, though, students have succeeded and have had research published in academic journals such as Frontiers in Neurology. Their work addresses pressing issues affecting Rio Grande Valley patients, such as initiatives to help post-stroke patients.

“I have had the privilege of watching dozens of students get accepted for internships and receive research awards,” Baker said. “Helping students continue their journey and achieve their long-term dreams is the highlight of my work.”


It is pivotal for more women to be involved in science, she said. Despite all challenges, she encourages young women to pursue their interests with confidence.

“One of my catch phrases is ‘Onward and Upward.’  I would encourage anyone to think about that statement when thinking about a career in medicine and education, particularly young women,” Baker said. “There always will be some resistance along the path, and it will come in many shapes.”

To support efforts to succeed, Baker stresses the importance of finding supportive allies to help students along the way.

“Throughout my career, I have had amazing advocates and allies who have sought to provide me with opportunities to grow and develop,” Baker said. “Keep these advocates close and go to them for advice and suggestions as you continue your journey.”


The impactful research underway at the UTRGV School of Medicine directly influences the Valley community, Baker said, and she is proud to see her students making a tangible difference in the lives of Valley residents.

“I have seen the impact it has had on improving the healthcare of so many community members,” Baker said. “As a clinical researcher, it brings so much joy to invite patients to receive state-of-the-art research approaches that potentially can improve clinical care for those who otherwise would not have access to these technologies without driving four hours.” 

Dr. Michael Hocker, dean of UTRGV School Medicine and senior vice president of UT Health RGV, said Dr. Baker’s contributions have made a significant mark on the institution and have greatly contributed to transforming the health of the Valley.

“Dr. Baker’s hard work and dedication to our students is truly remarkable,” Hocker said. “Her efforts have been instrumental in shaping the next generation of physician scientists. Her commitment to our students while advancing research in the Valley stands as a great example of her servant leadership.”

Baker encourages students to keep at it, even if the struggles seem insurmountable. The journey is long and takes many unexpected turns, but each obstacle is a chance to learn and grow, she said. Stay resilient, she tells students. 

“Focus on goals and know that your work and training will affect the lives of many Valley residents,” 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.