EL PASO, Texas (KTSM)- The University of Texas at El Paso and the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso launched today MedFuture, a partnership initiative that will create a pathway program for highly qualified seniors with an interest in science and medicine to be admitted to the undergraduate pre-med program at UTEP and medical degree program at the TTUHSC El Paso Foster School of Medicine directly from high school.

“UTEP has a very strong pre-med program,” said Heather Wilson, UTEP President. “It makes sense for UTEP and TTUHSC El Paso to work together to help El Paso retain the best and brightest future physicians in the region.”

“We’re pleased to partner once again with UTEP, this time to provide an educational pathway for talented local students who dream of attending medical school and serving patients in their hometown,” said Richard Lange, M.D., M.B.A., president of TTUHSC El Paso and dean of the Foster School of Medicine. “MedFuture will help us address the physician shortage in the Paso del Norte region while meeting the health care challenges faced by our residents.”

While completing their bachelor’s degrees at UTEP, MedFuture students will receive strong, foundational pre-med support and enroll in the UTEP PREP summer program to set a solid foundation for their college career. Program opportunities include specialized pre-health advising and mentorship, paid Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) preparation programs, paid summer research experiences and health care immersion internships at TTUHSC El Paso’s Foster School of Medicine.

“Our shared goal is to address our region’s severe physician shortage by educating the next generation of medical professionals, and promoting a medical workforce that reflects the community it serves,” said Gail Arnold, Ph.D., assistant dean of the College of Science and director of the Medical Professions Institute at UTEP.

A joint committee of UTEP and TTUHSC El Paso’s Foster School of Medicine faculty and staff selected the inaugural cohort of five highly qualified students for admission to both UTEP and the Foster School of Medicine including:

  • Fernanda Acosta, Clint Early College Academy
  • Luke Briggs, Cathedral High School
  • Janelle Navarrette, Northwest Early College High School
  • Makena Piñon, Texas Online Preparatory School
  • Max Serrano, Franklin High School

Makena Piñon, which was exposed to the field of medicine at a young age by undergoing multiple surgeries including open heart surgery, learning about her heart and how it worked due to being born with a heart defect, say her passion for practicing medicine locally grew after learning of TTUHSC El Paso’s mission to keep students in the region after graduation.

“As a patient, I have to fly out to Houston for any treatment I may need,” Piñon said. “Not only is El Paso underserved, but it’s underrepresented. Being part of the MedFuture program means that I can continue my education here while staying involved to serve our community.”

The MedFuture initiative is the first of its kind in West Texas, with collaboration from two independent universities on one path to a medical education. Its groundbreaking programming will not only cultivate a deeper interest and understanding of the field, but has the potential to change the life trajectories of local students and their families as they embark on a path to high-income earning careers in medicine here in our Borderland. Four of the five students in MedFuture’s inaugural cohort are first-generation college students.

“We extend a big congratulations to the ‘first five’ of the new MedFuture initiative,” said Cynthia Perry, Ph.D., Associate Academic Dean for Admissions at the Foster School of Medicine. “We’re excited to work closely with this cohort providing mentorship and professional development opportunities as well as exposing them to the field of medicine through scribing and shadowing internships. MedFuture will help us grow our own future physicians and provide the resources to potentially change their life trajectories and those of their families.”