MERCEDES — University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa took questions for about a half-hour Wednesday from a crowd of about 60 dressed in medical scrubs, suits and ties, and hooded sweatshirts.
“I was wondering if you could give us some tips on what to do after high school to get into medical school,” an 11th-grade boy asked.
The questions — all from self-identified sophomores, juniors and seniors of South Texas High School for Health Professions, known as Med High, which has the largest student body in the South Texas Independent School District — ran the gamut from soliciting advice on how to achieve academic goals to the future of medicine to the admission standards at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. He answered with a combination of personal history and professional expertise.
“There were at least four times I wanted to quit,” the Laredo native said of the long and difficult path to a career in medicine. “There was one time I actually quit medical school.”
In town to promote the new university, which will bring a medical school to the Rio Grande Valley, Cigarroa answered the high school students’ technical questions about pediatric transplants and the p53 gene as if they were already in medical school.
“Thank goodness the chancellor is an MD,” said Ernest Aliseda, a UT regent from McAllen who attended the event.
Aliseda said the event was similar to several others Cigarroa — the first Latino chancellor of UT, who will step down in September — conducted throughout the Valley.
“I think it’s part of the community outreach that he made a commitment to do when the whole concept of the new university and the medical school came to fruition.”
Wednesday’s event was a little different, though, because the students were already in a potential career in medicine.
“Do you think there will be, like, a program, like, connecting Med High, because it’s a profession school, to the medical university,” one student asked.
“Absolutely,” Cigarroa answered. “The dean of the medical school will get a call from me if there’s not something.”