UT Health San Antonio’s 2023 Presidential Ambassador Scholars were officially recognized by President William L. Henrich, MD, MACP, on April 24.
Dr. Henrich presented each student with their medals and recognized their achievements, with each ambassador awarded a $5,000 scholarship. The ambassadors represent the student body and the university at numerous events throughout the year.
The five scholars, one from each school in the university, are: Gina Baxter, School of Health Professions; Tyler Childs, School of Dentistry; Alejandra Garcia, Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine; Paulomi Modi, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences; and Avani Ved, School of Nursing.
Gina Baxter is a first-year graduate student in the Speech Language Pathology master’s program at the School of Health Professions. She has learned that responding to adversity with perseverance will lead to success. Her perseverance was essential when her dad experienced a thrombotic stroke following her mom’s diagnosis of dementia and she moved back home to run the family business. Balancing the care of her parents and the sudden, sole responsibility of running a business provided her with countless new leadership opportunities. She started her own management company, hiring, training, assessing and supervising employees. She developed and implemented new operating procedures and streamlined the financial transactions. Baxter also enlisted the help of other professionals in the field for guidance, and gradually modernized her parents’ business. Through continual leadership, discipline and improvement, she increased business profits by 16% and annual sales grew to more than $800,000. Having two hearing-impaired family members drove her interest and decision to pursue a master’s degree at the School of Health Professions. After graduation, she would like to work with patients with dysphagia — a swallowing disorder — and aphasia — a language disorder affecting communication.
Tyler Childs is a second-year dental student at the School of Dentistry. Prior to dental school, he attended the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, where he majored in biology and was a member of the men’s soccer team. During his time in college, Childs served as a university ambassador and lab assistant and mentor for first-year soccer players. Additionally, he was awarded academic and athletic awards. Most notably, he was named a 2019 College Sports Information Directors of America, or CoSIDA, Academic All-American. His extracurricular activities have included summer research on an antimicrobial resin composite material and being a didactic/gross anatomy lab tutor. When not in class or studying, he is involved with intramural sports, playing soccer, pickleball and basketball. After graduation, Childs plans to stay in San Antonio as a general dentist so he can serve his community and the city he loves.
Alejandra Garcia is a first-year medical student at the Long School of Medicine. She attended St. Mary’s University and graduated with a degree in biochemistry in May 2022. As an undergraduate, she was a nurse aide at a nursing home for a year and then became a home health nurse aide working throughout San Antonio for a year. She typically worked with patients with dementia and in hospice care. Although she always had an interest in medicine, her work experience reaffirmed her desire to become a health care professional and inspired her to aim to fill the gaps in care for underserved populations. She was recently elected the President for the Latino Medical Student Association and serves as a Del Rio event coordinator and Spanish medical interpreter for Frontera de Salud, a student-run volunteer organization that provides health care to underserved populations in Texas. These roles will enable her to fulfill her personal mission and make a difference for those facing barriers to health care.
Paulomi Modi is a second-year PhD student in the Integrated Biomedical Sciences program in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. At 17, Modi moved to the United States on her own and later graduated from the University of Houston with a bachelor’s degree biology with minors in chemistry and business administration. In August 2021, at 21 years old, she joined the Integrated Biomedical Sciences program as the youngest graduate student in her cohort. She is currently working in Dr. Myron Ignatius’ lab at the Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute to develop novel zebrafish models of rhabdomyosarcoma, or RMS — a rare type of pediatric cancer that forms in the soft tissue — and osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. Modi’s dissertation project will be important in defining ways to enhance radiation therapy to prevent the regrowth of tumors in patients with RMS. She is interested in a career in the pharmaceutical industry with an emphasis on drug development and furthering knowledge of therapeutics for pediatric cancers. An avid traveler, Modi has visited 17 countries exploring diverse cultures and pursuing endless scuba diving and culinary adventures.
Avani Ved is a third-year graduate student in the School of Nursing’s BSN-DNP program. She began her career as a nurse after graduating with her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Texas at Arlington with a minor in psychology. As a new graduate nurse, she worked on a Medical-Surgical unit at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, providing compassionate care to her patients until she moved to San Antonio to join the School of Nursing’s BSN-DNP program and advance her nursing career. Since starting her journey at UT Health San Antonio, Ved has held numerous leadership positions, serving as the graduate student representative for the Committee of Graduate Studies, the vice president of the Student Advisory Council, and as a teaching assistant for undergraduate students. She is also a member of the Delta-Alpha at-Large chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing. Ved’s passion for nursing stems from her personal experience with Type 1 diabetes. She was diagnosed at the age of nine and struggled due to a lack of education on the disease process within the community. She now continues to inspire and encourage those around her through her personal blog, sharing the story of her journey with Type 1 diabetes by combining her medical knowledge as a nurse with her platform to educate all those willing to learn. She hopes to gain experience as a nurse practitioner to encourage other students to reach their goals in the constantly evolving field of nursing. Her desire to educate is her primary focus as she strives to become a life-long learner and healer.