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Receiving ‘the call’

MARIO GONZALEZ/ THE RIDER GRAPHIC

During the winter break, UT Brownsville graduate Ramiro Tovar and his family celebrated his acceptance into the charter class of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine.

Tovar, who graduated from UTB in Spring 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences, said he received a call from the dean of the medical school, Francisco Fernandez.

“He said, like, ‘Hey, do you have time?’ and I said, ‘Yes, of course, what is going on?’ and he said, ‘Hey, you know, if you want, you’re welcomed to attend.’ Verbatim I said, ‘You’re not kidding, right?’ and he said, ‘Well, I’m not kidding,
I’m not that evil.’”

Tovar waited for his family to return home to tell them about his acceptance and they were all very excited.

“I still don’t believe it,” he said.

The Texas Medical and Dental Application Service prematched Tovar with the School of Medicine, which opens July 25 with a charter class of 50 students.

The school has received the names of the students in its preliminary charter class, officials say. The students are from across the country.

“The reason we haven’t publicized it is because the students still can change,” said Betty Monfort, School of Medicine senior assistant dean for admissions. “Up until the first day of orientation, [June 27], they can still switch schools, so the class is just preliminary until then.”

After medical schools listed their top applicants and students listed their top institutions, the Texas Medical and Dental Application Service matched the schools with the students on Feb. 1.

The preliminary figures show the charter class is almost an equal number of men and women, she said.

“We’re very happy that at least 32 percent of them are from the Rio Grande Valley,” Monfort said.

As of now, there are only five non-Texas residents in the charter class, one from each of the following states: Arizona, Illinois, Maine, Florida and California, she said.

“I think if anyone goes to other schools it will probably be the out-of-staters, because if they get an offer from one of their state’s schools, they usually tend to jump ship,” she said. “But we have a very, very, lucrative wait list for out-of-staters. We have no problem in replacing them, if they go. ”

Under Section 13 of the 2014 Texas General Appropriations Act, a school of medicine cannot have more than 10 percent out-of-state students in a class.

The undergraduate degrees from those accepted range from a bachelor’s of science in microbiology, biology and chemistry to a master’s degree in dance studies.

On Jan. 16, The Texas Tribunepublished an article in which some lawmakers warn that the state “does not adequately fund the residency programs needed to keep medical students here.”

Fernandez said the most common reason they are not staying in Texas “is that there aren’t enough training spots for residency in the particular area that they want to be … whether it’s vascular surgery, orthopedics or some other area.”

After graduating from medical school, students can continue their training at a graduate medical education program, which includes residency experience.

Fernandez said there are local residency programs that may help UTRGV keep its students here.

“The Valley Baptist and the McAllen Medical Center Hospital residency training programs were expanded. DHR, Doctor’s Hospital at Renaissance, created four new residency programs,” he said. “Before even the medical school program was approved, the Valley was attempting to, with the assistance of the University of Texas Health Sciences Center-San Antonio and the University of Texas System, they were planning for the potential exodus, if you will, of medical school graduates by creating residencies here, which would facilitate their staying in the Valley to finalize their training to a graduate education program.”

As previously reported by The Rider, for those in the charter class who have health insurance, tuition will be set at $18,298 for Texas residents and $31,398.32 for non-residents.

If a student does not have insurance, they must purchase it for $2,181 from the university, regardless of their residency classification. The total cost per year, with insurance, is $20,479 for Texas residents and $33,579 for non-Texas residents.

Those who were accepted will be receiving the charter class scholarship, which reduces tuition by $13,068 for Texas residents and by $23,548 for non Texas residents.

“The remaining tuition and fees should be paid by the first day of classes,” Monfort said. “I’m sure that we have our own financial aid person dedicated to the students here at the med school. She will be in contact with them, starting in the next couple of weeks, to work out in case they are having difficulty with that first payment. ”

Classes will be held in the 15,000-square-foot Smart Hospital complex, which is under construction on the Edinburg campus.

“I really do think that reason is that the mission of the school is extraordinarily attracting to many of the students that came,” Fernandez said. “It’s clear that many of the students that came are attuned to what UTRGV was all about and what we wanted to accomplish.

They wanted to be part of something new because they knew they were going to be the class that started it all. As one student said, ‘Ten years from now, I will be able to see my fingerprints on how this evolved over time because I will have
been a part of it.’”

Tovar hopes to specialize in internal medicine after graduating from the medical school.

“They always say that once you go to medical school, all your plans change,” he said. “You fall in love with something
that you never considered. Right now, I’m just sticking to doing my residency here in the Valley. I think it’d be really exciting.”

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