Teens to conduct cutting-edge biomedical research at Voelcker Academy

SAN ANTONIO (April 16, 2009) — Long before they graduate high school, San Antonio teenagers will have the opportunity to participate in world-class biomedical research with top scientists from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, thanks to a $750,000 gift from the Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker Fund.

Twenty rising sophomores will become the inaugural class of the Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker Biomedical Research Academy.

The students will begin the three-year program this summer with seven weeks of workshops, field trips and hands-on research. In the following two summers, they will conduct research in biomedical laboratories at the Health Science Center, with mentoring from distinguished faculty.

More Voelcker Scholars will be chosen from a diverse group of San Antonio school districts in years to come. By 2012, up to 60 high school students will be participating in the program.

The purpose of the Voelcker Academy is to prepare the students for college while developing the next generation of biomedical scientists for San Antonio.

“Voelcker Scholars will have the potential to lead discoveries and advance cures in heart disease, arthritis, muscular dystrophy, cancer and more,” said Brian A. Herman, Ph.D., vice president of research at the Health Science Center and principal investigator for the Voelcker Academy. “The academy offers a unique opportunity to prepare our high school students as future biomedical researchers.”

At the end of each summer, Voelcker Scholars will present their work at a science symposium. They also will be invited to activities during the school year. At the end of each successfully completed summer, a student will receive a financial award and an invitation to return the next year.

Because the Voelcker Academy requires considerable effort, participants will be chosen through a competitive admissions process. Voelcker Scholars will have to meet grade requirements, provide teacher recommendations and write an essay.

Applications for the first class of Voelcker Scholars must be received by 4 p.m. on Friday, May 1, and can be found at www.uthscsa.edu/outreach/summer.asp or http://gradschool.toolbox.net/students/summer.

Students and teachers with questions can contact the program’s co-directors directly. Irene Chapa, Ph.D., director of the Health Science Center’s Office of Recruitment and Science Outreach, can be reached at chapai@uthscsa.edu, and Sophia Pina, Ph.D., assistant dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, can be reached at pina@uthscsa.edu.

Max and Minnie Tomerlin Voelcker, who died in 1980 and 2000 respectively, ran a successful dairy farm in San Antonio for many years. The Voelckers loved children and San Antonio and were deeply interested in medical research. The Voelcker Academy combines those passions.

Established in 2006, the Voelcker Fund and its trustees have invested nearly $4 million in biomedical research at the Health Science Center.

Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., chancellor of The University of Texas System, began discussions with Voelcker Fund trustees in his previous role as Health Science Center president.

“We are grateful to the trustees of the Voelcker Fund for their leadership in establishing the Voelcker Biomedical Research Academy for San Antonio high school students, in collaboration with the UT Health Science Center San Antonio,” Dr. Cigarroa said. “We believe it could be a model to support education for the next generation of biomedical scientists.”

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is the leading research institution in South Texas and one of the major health sciences universities in the world. With an operating budget of $668 million, the Health Science Center is the chief catalyst for the $16.3 billion biosciences and health care sector in San Antonio’s economy. The Health Science Center has had an estimated $36 billion impact on the region since inception and has expanded to six campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. More than 25,600 graduates (physicians, dentists, nurses, scientists and other health professionals) serve in their fields, including many in Texas. Health Science Center faculty are international leaders in cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, aging, stroke prevention, kidney disease, orthopaedics, research imaging, transplant surgery, psychiatry and clinical neurosciences, pain management, genetics, nursing, dentistry and many other fields. For more information, visit www.uthscsa.edu.

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