A partner on the physician career path

By Jan Jarvis

TCOM mentoring program students


For five Saturdays, 35 students from economically disadvantaged high schools got a chance to see themselves as the physicians they hope to one day become.

They sutured artificial skin, examined human hearts in the anatomy lab and experienced life as medical students. As participants in the Mentoring and Health Professions Exposure Program (MAHPE) at UNT Health Science Center, they also discovered that the path to a medical career was not nearly as daunting as they imagined.

“A lot of what I learned had to do with motivation and believing that you can get help going into health care,” said Mayra Ruiz, a junior at Trimble Tech High School.  “They showed us that there is a way to get into college and medical school even if you don’t have money.”

The outreach program began three years ago as a way to connect with students interested in health care careers. Since then 85 students from three Fort Worth high schools have participated in the program, which includes hands-on activities, mock job interviews and workshops.

Along the way they get heavy doses of inspiration from UNTHSC students, many of them with similar backgrounds, said Fernando Vasquez, former Assistant Director of Medical School Admissions and Outreach.

“Some of these kids will go home and for the first time tell their parents that they really can be a doctor, a physician’s assistant or a pharmacist,” he said. “This institution is opening its arms and providing them with the guidance they need to achieve that goal.”

Erica Solis, a second-year student in the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine and President of the Student National Medical Association, understands why medical school seems like an impossible dream for so many kids. She’s been there herself.

“They may want to go, but they don’t know any of the steps to get there,” she said.

Solis said hopes to motivate the next generation and make their journey to medical school more accessible. The relationship that is formed with the students often spans beyond the five-week program. Even after the program was over, she coached her student from last year through the college application process and still stays in touch.

The mentors benefit from the program as much as the students do, said Miguel A. Rodriguez, a mentor and President of the Latino Medical Student Association.

“Mentoring high school students reminds us of our purpose as future health care professionals,” he said. “As a mentor, seeing the impact I have on high school students encourages me to keep on contributing to the well-being of our community.”

For the high school students, the program can put them on the path toward a career they didn’t think possible.

“It was the most enriching high school experience that I had the privilege of attending,” said Lionel Munoz, a senior at Diamond Hill-Jarvis High School.  “I am eternally grateful for UNTHSC for giving me this opportunity.”

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