EL PASO, TX (KTSM) – A first, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) creates direct-education line to Maxine L. Silva Health Magnet High School for it’s Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, four seniors enrolled.

Four Maxine L. Silva Health Magnet High School seniors are the first enrolled in a new pipeline education program with the Francis Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso.

Every other day, the students observe and work in the Francis Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences’ research labs in Medical Sciences Building I on the TTUHSC El Paso campus.

The goal is to expose these students to our biomedical sciences. This is a hands-on experience that will give them an advantage for a future career or path in research. Few students their age will have this type of opportunity as they enter college and apply for competitive internships.

Rajkumar Lakshmanaswamy, Ph.D., dean of the graduate school

The Francis Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences provides students with hands-on experiences in biomedical sciences and research experiences in a broad range of laboratories. In that environment, high school seniors gain experience they normally would have to wait several years for once in college.

The inaugural students enrolled in the pipeline program are:

  • Carlos Araujo, who plans to attend El Paso Community College and major in biomedical engineering.
  • Shreeya Patel, who plans to attend the University of Texas at El Paso and major in biochemistry.
  • James White, who plans to attend the University of Alaska Fairbanks and major in marine biology.
  • Camila Avila-Escobar, who plans to attend Nova Southeastern University and major in marine biology.

Although the students’ desired career paths vary, they all jumped at the opportunity to take the course. White wanted to see if lab work was something he would like to do. Patel said she wanted to have an idea of what college courses would be like. And Avila-Escobar and Araujo both want to make the world a better place.

I’ve always been interested in lab work and helping patients from behind the scenes. I know if I have a future in this field, I can help the community from here. The possibilities are endless – from developing vaccines to testing for diseases and more.

Carlos Araujo, senior, Maxine L. Silva Health Magnet High School

The program also comes at a vital time, as there is a need for more diversity in biomedical sciences studies and careers. According to the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, there are about 143,000 people employed as “medical scientists” in the country. Among them, 58.2% were White, 33.8% were Asian, 7.9% were Hispanic, and 5.1% were African American. “More diversity initiatives are needed to address health sciences demands and U.S. demographic changes,” the Society for Diversity in the Biomedical Sciences website states.

This year the course is only available during the students’ spring semester, but starting in the fall, it will be taught year-round. The first half of this semester has included observing Dr. Lakshmanaswamy and graduate students while learning proper procedures and workflow. The students will become more involved during the second half of the semester.

It’s been excellent to see these students come in and their eyes light up because they can see a future in health care, research or even a pathway to college that they may have not envisioned previously. This is why our campus exists, to build a culture and interest in health and biomedical sciences with our youth. It’s also great for our graduate students to teach and mentor the high school students. They get to pass down what they’ve learned and grow as educators themselves.

Rajkumar Lakshmanaswamy, Ph.D., dean of the graduate school

Dr. Lakshmanaswamy said he would be more than happy to see the four seniors return one day as students at TTUHSC El Paso. The Francis Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences currently offers a two-year M.S. in biomedical sciences, as well as a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Program designed to meet the supplemental, post-baccalaureate educational needs of professionals and individuals in need of additional coursework for graduate school, medical school and dental school admission.

Starting the course was special for Silva Health Magnet teacher Romero, who graduated from the high school only four years ago. She said she would’ve done the course herself if it was available back then.

These students are just as instrumental to the foundation of this program as myself and Dr. Lakshmanaswamy. I hope what we’ve learned this year will put the program on a good track, and I’m happy to have started this legacy at our high school.

Alheli Romero, a Silva Health Magnet alumna and teacher

Patel said she’s proud to be a member of the first class and hopes the program grows thanks to the first steps they’ve taken this year.

I’ve experienced things I never thought I would thanks to Ms. Romero and Dr. Lakshmanaswamy. I’ve worked with state-of-the-art equipment and have seen actual results. It’s a type of confidence I’ll take to college that wouldn’t have been possible without them and this program.

Shreeya Patel, senior, Maxine L. Silva Health Magnet High School

As part of the mission of the Francis Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, educators provide a dynamic research environment that focuses on conditions directly impacting the residents of this region and other rapidly growing Hispanic populations. World-class research is also a driver of economic impact, influencing major corporations to set up additional facilities, grow biomedical manufacturing, incubate start-up companies, and create high-paying jobs.

As of 2021, 129 students have graduated from the Francis Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Most graduates attend medical or dental school or pursue their Ph.D. after graduation.

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