EDITORIAL: Early start

UTRGV medical school offers high schoolers early acceptance

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is ensuring the success of its young medical school by creating innovative programs to help students and the community at large.

The UTRGV School of Medicine recently announced the creation of Vaqueros MD, a program through which top students can reserve slots in the medical school while still in high school.

It’s a highly competitive program and university officials expect about five students to qualify during the first application period, which began Nov. 1 and runs through Jan. 22. To qualify, high school juniors and seniors must apply and be accepted not only to UTRGV, but also into the university’s Honors College, a restricted program for the top students.

Students who are selected will be guaranteed seats in the medical school’s incoming class of 2024, after they receive their bachelor’s degrees, if all other admissions requirements are met. Students do not have to major in pre-med programs to qualify for the program.

Vaqueros MD is open to students living in Texas’ southernmost counties, from Cameron north to Aransas and west to Webb counties. Preference will be given to students who:

>> Are the first in their families to attend college.

>> Attend Title 1 schools, where at least 40 percent of the students are low-income or at risk of failing or dropping out.

>> Are eligible for need-based education grants.

>> Show interest in a high-need medical specialty area, such as family medicine, emergency medicine or obstetrics and gynecology.

“This program will identify and select highly talented high school students who will earn their undergraduate degrees at UTRGV,” Dr. John H. Krouse, dean of the UTRGV School of Medicine, said in a statement announcing the program.

It also will help address the concerns and wishes of Rio Grande Valley residents.

Public support for a South Texas medical school was high not only because it would help provide educational opportunities that were lacking in the area, but it might also help address a chronic shortage of health care professionals. It’s common knowledge that medical professionals often stay in the areas where they went to school or served their residencies. And if those professionals grew up in the area and know the people, local health concerns and their language, all the better.

Krouse noted that 32 percent of the UTRGV medical school’s current enrollment are Valley residents.

“It is our goal to make that 50 percent,” he said.

We applaud UTRGV officials who continue to recognize the unique qualities and needs of the region they serve, and create unique programs to address them. We encourage interested students and their families who are interested in medical careers to learn about Vaqueros MD and see if it can help them plan their careers.