South Texas Environmental Education and Research (STEER) immerses health professions students and faculty in the unique culture and environment of the Texas-Mexico Border. Our purpose is to reunite Medicine and Public Health. You may choose to take STEER in Harlingen for a practicum or elective. See the schedule. Many universities offer course credit. Our students come from medical and public health schools across the US as shown on our student demographics map. You’ll find yourself in a new learning environment every day that will allow you to link theory and practice.

Students give the program high marks:


“Uniquely the best program I have attended in my academic career. It taught me invaluable information that will stick with me for a lifetime.”


“No amount of book learning can make you comprehend the border.”

“Every day was nothing but outstanding learning throughout, STEER never dropped the ball.”


“If we are truly defined as a collection of our experiences, then the past month has been one of the most enriching times of my life. I have been educated, I have been humbled, I have been touched, I have been inspired, and I have been called to action.”


South Texas public health practitioners confront constant threats to the public health, protecting and promoting the wellbeing of not just Border residents, but of our Nation as a whole. These scientists, physicians, nurses, educators, engineers, and community leaders are our collaborators in research, outreach, and, of course, in teaching. Their knowledge is yours to share.

“What better way to teach Border health issues than to enlist the health professionals and experts from the Border as teachers?”

Claudia Miller, M.D., STEER Former Director, said,

“They deal with the issues every day, and are a resource unlike any other in the country. Students have the opportunity to go behind the scenes and learn how Texas-Mexico Border communities grapple with these unmet medical, environmental and public health needs.”

STEER is in the Department of Family Medicine of The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine (UTRGV - SOM). The STEER program began in 1996 in Laredo, Texas, with the support of the Center for South Texas Programs and the Regional Campus in Laredo. In 2004, recognizing the increasing need for innovative public health training at the Texas-Mexico Border, Dr. Leonel Vela, Senior Associate Dean for Education and Academic Affairs of UTRGV’s School of Medicine in Harlingen, Texas, enlisted STEER’s Director, Dr. Claudia Miller, to create a STEER program in Harlingen. The UTRGV School of Medicine in Harlingen continues the STEER’s mission and vision. STEER program and staff are internationally-recognized for providing hands-on, experiential, community-based environmental health training.