As students walk across the stage at The University of Texas and Texas Southmost College Spring Commencement this month, many will be completing healthcare related studies and starting their careers, while others will head to medical centers in San Antonio and beyond for advanced degrees.
Among those continuing their studies will be Ivan Valdez of Brownsville, who participated in the Minority Biomedical Research Support, Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (MBRS R.I.S.E.), a program designed to increase the number of minorities completing undergraduate degrees and continuing to doctorates in biomedical science.
“I became interested in neuroscience after my grandmother passed away with Alzheimer’s,” Valdez said. “The work I am doing is so fascinating.”
Students in the MBRS R.I.S.E. program receive a stipend as they gain experience doing laboratory research on Alzheimer’s, tuberculosis, breast cancer, epilepsy and diabetes.
Valdez has accepted a full scholarship to the Harvard Medical School Biological and Biomedical Sciences Division, where he hopes to help solve some of these scientific mysteries.
For students who wish to pursue medical school, UTB/TSC participates in the Joint Admission Medical Program, the Early Medical School Acceptance Program and parallel programs for dental school. All of these provide scholarships, summer stipends and mentoring to help students reach their goals.
“Extraordinary opportunities for lifelong, well-paid employment that is challenging and fulfilling exist in the health-care industry,” said Dr. Eldon Nelson, dean of the UTB/TSC School of Health Sciences.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor states, “Ten of the twenty fastest growing occupations are health-care related … and health-care will generate 3.2 million new wage and salary jobs between 2008 and 2018, more than any other industry, largely in response to rapid growth in the elderly population.”
UTB/TSC offers nursing certificates and degrees, including one-, two-, and four-year programs, as well as graduatelevel programs.
According to Nelson, many students take a stepladder approach, first earning the one-year certificate (to sit for the Licensed Vocational Nurse exam) or the two-year associate in nursing (to sit for the Registered Nurse exam). After becoming a registered nurse, students often continue their studies to obtain a bachelor’s, furthering their opportunities for advancement.
“The statistics are staggering,” Nelson said. “The proposed national shortage of nurses reaches more than 1 million, and in the allied health professions perhaps as great as a 2.5 million shortfall will exist by 2020.”
Five allied health specialties are taught at UTB/TSC: radiology technology, respiratory therapy technology, medical laboratory technology, sonography technology and emergency medical science.
These intensive two-year associate degrees prepare students to enter the workforce as highly skilled technicians trained in the latest techniques and theories. Nelson also sees a growing shortage of physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, pharmacists, physician assistants and nurse practitioners: all careers that require transferring to another university with a medical center to earn a master’s or doctorate.
For students interested in physical therapy, occupational therapy or becoming a physician assistant, UTB/TSC offers the 3+3 Program. In partnership with The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, the 3+3 Program allows motivated students to enter graduate school at the end of their undergraduate junior year, saving them one year of study.
Information about health-care professions is available from local, state and national resources:
• UTB/TSC School of Health Sciences, www.utb.edu/shs
• UTB/TSC Office of Health Professions Careers, www.utb.edu/premed
• Texas Wage Information Network (W.I.N.), www.lmci.state.tx.us
• “Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition,” www.bls.gov/OCO
For more information about the UTB/TSC health sciences programs, call the School of Health Sciences at (956) 882-5000 or visit www.utb.edu/shs.