Despite COVID-19’s disruptions, UT Health San Antonio produces another 1,000 health care providers and scientists

Group Of Diverse International Students Celebrating Graduation

ABC News’ John Quinones to give commencement address May 22 at Alamodome.

More than 1,000 students — 827 in May and 211 this summer — have applied to graduate from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, also referred to as UT Health San Antonio. These figures were obtained May 12 from the university’s institutional research office.

“Each one of these graduates has overcome the unique educational challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic to reach the noble aspiration of becoming a health care provider or biomedical researcher. We couldn’t be prouder of this achievement and of our graduates’ dedication to serve humanity throughout their careers,” said William L. Henrich, MD, MACP, president of UT Health San Antonio.

Dr. Henrich will welcome ABC News journalist John Quinones as the invited speaker for the May 22 in-person commencement at the Alamodome. A graduate of Brackenridge High School and St. Mary’s University, Quinones rose from a disadvantaged upbringing to log more than 30 years with ABC so far, including anchoring 20/20 and Primetime. He will deliver stirring words of wisdom on doing the right thing throughout life, no matter the hindrances.

Social justice

Amid polarizing events nationally, social justice has been a prevailing theme of these candidates’ final year of study.

Within the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio, an Office for Inclusion and Diversity was established in 2017. In October 2020, Chiquita A. Collins, PhD, chief diversity officer and vice dean for inclusion and diversity in the Long School of Medicine, was named associate vice president for inclusive excellence and health equity, reporting to President Henrich.

“Diversifying the medical workforce is essential to meeting the needs of a growing, diverse patient population, especially here in South Texas,” Dr. Collins said this spring after the Long School of Medicine was ranked 16th best medical school for diversity by U.S. News & World Report. “Inclusive excellence is core to our mission.” Dr. Collins is working with each of the university’s five schools on diversity and inclusion.

The UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing likewise established a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council to ensure that it is educating nurses who are inclusive and considerate of patients who may be different from themselves.

“One thing that you’ll hear a lot if you walk through the halls of the School of Nursing is that we do health care as an act of social justice,” said Joanna Ruth Skidmore, candidate for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. “I think that the School of Nursing does a good job of practicing what it preaches in that sense.”

Collaboration during pandemic

Skidmore said the pandemic hasn’t dampened her experiences with fellow students. “Nursing is a team sport, and we’ve stayed together as a team despite this pandemic,” she said. “It’s been incredible how we have still managed to find ways to bond.”

The School of Nursing has led efforts with COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, Skidmore said. More than 115,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine were administered during the last six months in the school’s Hurd Auditorium.

Spring and summer graduates

In addition to front-line nurses, UT Health San Antonio educates and trains a variety of professionals to serve society, and this month’s graduates are projected to include:

  • 215 candidates for the Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree.
  • 131 candidates for the BSN degree.
  • 101 candidates for the Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree.
  • 87 candidates for the Certificate in Emergency Medicine Technology.
  • 25 candidates for the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in several disciplines.

Summer graduates are expected to include:

  • 89 additional candidates for the BSN degree.
  • 53 candidates for the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree.
  • 32 candidates for the Master of Science in Respiratory Care degree.
  • 23 candidates for the Master of Science in Medical Laboratory Sciences degree.

Helping patients, changing care

“All I want is to be able to make a positive impact on my future patients’ lives,” said Lauren Simone Capicio, candidate for the Master of Science in Speech Language Pathology degree awarded by the School of Health Professions. “That’s what I went to school for and that’s what I hope to be able to do.”

“I look forward to seeing how we will change the way health care is delivered in communities throughout the country, and how we’ll touch the individual lives of the patients we treat,” said Jared Alexander Stowers, candidate for the MD degree conferred by the Long School of Medicine.

Anna Katharina Tosti, candidate for the DDS degree awarded by the School of Dentistry, didn’t envision performing surgery when she first wanted to be a dentist. Now she looks forward to gaining surgical experience during her postgraduate residency program. “I’m very happy with where I am right now, and I think first-grade me would look at me now and be like, oh, she’s a doctor. That’s very cool,” she said.

Off to a strong start

Holly M. Parenica, candidate for the Doctor of Philosophy in Radiological Sciences degree awarded by the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, said the UT Health San Antonio faculty have been deeply invested in her education and have helped to develop her professional career.

Of the May and summer applicants for graduation, 62% (651) are women while 387 are men, statistics show. Hispanic applicants for graduation total 408 (39%).

The School of Dentistry is celebrating the fact that 100% of its graduating dental and dental hygiene students completed the Western Regional Examining Board (WREB) assessments for licensure.

Click here for Commencement 2021 details. 

Ceremony Livestream: 
The ceremony will be livestreamed online. View the livestream via this link.



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