SAN ANTONIO (Sept. 6, 2011) — Entering medical school was a scary proposition for Alfredo Camero Jr., born and raised in Laredo on the South Texas border. Yet he soon found many avenues available for guidance and support. Now, having reached his fourth year in the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, he says, “Our institution is special, and I know that part of my success is owed to the great mentoring I received during medical school.”
Camero is the first member of his family to go into medicine. He plugged into the Latino Medical Student Association, an organization sponsored by a faculty mentor, Manuel Ángel Oscós-Sánchez, M.D., associate professor of family and community medicine. “The organization is centered on community service, but at our monthly meetings we held discussions about different issues involving the Hispanic population and medicine,” Camero said.
Many Hispanic students such as Camero have found a welcoming environment in the School of Medicine, leading to a 96 percent retention rate. Each fall the school makes Hispanic Business magazine’s list of the Best Medical Schools for Hispanics.
In the new list, announced Sept. 6, the School of Medicine is ranked fifth best among the 133 accredited U.S. medical schools. This is based on the number and percentage of Hispanic enrollment, medical degrees earned by Hispanics, number of full-time Hispanic faculty, and participation in programs that recruit, support and mentor Hispanic medical students.
Great training ground
Among North American medical schools, the School of Medicine boasts one of the largest concentrations of Hispanic faculty. It also has one of the highest percentages of Hispanic graduates among total graduates. “For years the School of Medicine of the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio has been one of the country’s great training grounds for Hispanic physicians,” said William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP, president of the Health Science Center. “Many outstanding graduates have gone on to serve Texas and the nation.”
In fall 2010, Hispanic students represented 19 percent of the School of Medicine student body (171 of 901). Preliminary figures for fall 2011 are similar (169 of 906). This is more than double the national average of just over 8 percent Hispanic enrollment in medical schools, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The average in Texas medical schools is 12 percent.
Dr. Henrich noted that the School of Medicine operates the Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC) Medical Education Division at Harlingen and the RAHC Medical Research Division at Edinburg, both in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. These campuses have enabled 950 medical students to study on rotations in the Valley. In addition, 37 physicians have completed the internal medicine residency program located at the RAHC and 19 have stayed in the region to practice. The Valley, with a predominantly Hispanic population, has a low physician-to-population ratio. The national ratio is 220 physicians per 100,000 people, compared to 160 per 100,000 in Texas and 106 per 100,000 in the Valley.
Educating a diverse workforce
“What is physician workforce diversity going to look like in Texas?” said Francisco González-Scarano, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine. “The whole idea is to train a diverse physician workforce to meet the population demand of Texas over the next 10 to 15 years — a population growth dominated by Hispanics.” Dr. González also serves as vice president for medical affairs at the Health Science Center.
Janet F. Williams, M.D., associate dean for faculty and diversity in the School of Medicine, chairs a Diversity Committee focused on expanding diversity and inclusion across the school. In addition, several medical student organizations, including the Student National Medical Association, are working to foster the education of culturally competent medical students from all backgrounds to provide health equity among every population. “The effort in our school is to increase diversity whenever possible,” Dr. Williams said.
This includes the student admissions process. “Our faculty through the Admissions Committee has prioritized admitting underrepresented minority students, especially considering what these students represent to the future physician workforce as it cares for an increasingly diverse patient population,” said David J. Jones, Ph.D., senior associate dean for admissions, School of Medicine.
Nolan Perez, a Harlingen gastroenterologist and 1998 alumnus of the School of Medicine, was in the first group of physicians to graduate from the internal medicine residency program at the RAHC in 2004. “Offering undergraduate and graduate medical education at the RAHC has been a huge step forward for the Rio Grande Valley, and has already helped the physician-to-patient ratio and health care access in this region,” Dr. Perez said. “Given the changing demographics, we must continue to provide these opportunities for medical education in order to create home-grown health professionals who serve one of the most underserved areas in the country.”
Preparing a diverse physician workforce is a measure on the AAMC Medical School Missions Management Tool. This tool benchmarks the School of Medicine against all medical schools based on data in the AAMC Student Records System and AAMC Faculty Roster.
Higher than 9 (plus) out of 10
The School of Medicine is at the top of North American medical schools in graduating Hispanic physicians, the AAMC statistics show. From 2004 to 2009, the School of Medicine awarded medical degrees to 200 Hispanics — 16.9 percent of the school’s 1,183 total graduates. Medical schools at the 90th percentile reported graduating classes that were 12.4 percent Hispanic. Percentages at 9 of every 10 medical schools were lower than 12.4 percent.
In the category of “Faculty Who Are Hispanic or Latino, American Indian or Alaska Native, or Black or African American,” the School of Medicine is well above the 90th percentile, according to AAMC data as of Dec. 31, 2009. This group of minority faculty made up 18.6 percent of the School of Medicine total faculty, exceeding the 90th percentile figure of 12.8 percent. Nine of every 10 medical schools came in lower than 12.8 percent.
The Health Science Center is a Hispanic Serving Institution as designated by the U.S. Department of Education. Its School of Nursing and School of Health Professions have large enrollments of Hispanic students. One-third (33.3 percent) of the School of Nursing enrollment is classified Hispanic. In the School of Health Professions, 36 percent of students are classified Hispanic.
Awards, leadership and learning
Hispanic students and faculty are integral parts of the Dental School and Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at the Health Science Center, as well. In the past three years of presidential awards for teaching, clinical care and research, 11 have gone to Hispanics in several schools. There are also combined educational environments in which students from the School of Medicine and other schools, such as nursing, can learn together.
Ruben Restrepo, M.D., RRT, professor of respiratory care, is president of the Hispanic Latin Faculty Association at the Health Science Center. “It is an honor to work for an institution that supports Hispanics and promotes their leadership roles, both in the institution and in the community,” he said.
For Camero, involvement with faculty leaders was fundamental. As president of the Latino Medical Student Association, he volunteered to help Dr. Oscós-Sánchez conduct the Teen Medical Academy, a pipeline program that meets monthly with economically disadvantaged students, most of whom are Hispanic. The vast majority of students come from school districts in southern Bexar County and some drive in from other South Texas communities.
Camero is one of 311 Hispanic students to be enrolled in the School of Medicine since 2003. He plans to do an internal medicine residency after graduation and hopes to stay in San Antonio. “The physicians I met had similar stories to mine, and their words of wisdom have made my medical school experience run smoothly,” he said. “I’ve achieved more than I thought I could achieve.”
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving federal funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled $228 million in fiscal year 2010. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 26,000 graduates. The $744 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit www.uthscsa.edu.