Physician Assistant program celebrates 25 years of service to the Valley with this year’s White Coat Ceremony

A White Coat Ceremony held on Friday, Aug. 16, at the Performing Arts Complex in Edinburg welcomed 100 new PA students to the university. This the largest PA class currently in Texas. More than 1,700 applicants vied for 100 openings in this cohort. (UTRGV Photo by Silver Salas)

Mega Doctor NEWS

By Victoria Brito Morales

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Department of Physician Assistant Studies commemorated its anniversary with a White Coat Ceremony to welcome 100 new PA students.

Family and friends gathered on Friday, Aug. 16, at the Performing Arts Complex in Edinburg to watch the program’s newest students receive their white coats, symbolizing the start of their PA career.

Frank Ambriz, chair and clinical associate professor in the UTRGV Department of Physician Assistant Studies, delivered the keynote address, speaking about changes in the department over the years and looking to the journey still ahead.

“I am proud of what this program has achieved,” he said.“Your PA education will bring transformation. This transformation will not only affect you, but it will affect your family and your community where you will practice. The knowledge you learn will propel you to be a great health care provider.”

This the largest PA class currently in Texas.

  • Since the inception of the program in 1994, cohorts have grown from 20 students to 100 students today.
  • In 1994, the Rio Grande Valley only had six practicing PAs; now, there are nearly 500.
  • More than 1,700 applicants vied for 100 openings in this cohort.

Marco Martinez, 33, from Edcouch-Elsa, was among the new students. For the past decade, Martinez has been a science educator and spent his summers traveling. During his travels, he would arrange a time to volunteer at clinics in the countries he visited, including Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Kenya, and Ghana.

“It was in these clinics that I found a passion for medicine and an even greater purpose to help others,” Martinez said. “The experiences completely altered the trajectory of my life. I realized that I could make a huge impact in my own community as a PA.”

Martinez said he is coming into the program with an open mind and heart, but mostly, with high expectations.

“The next two and a half years of my life will probably be the most challenging yet, but I hope that, along the way, I get to make deep and lasting connections with both my professors and peers,” he said. “I hope to laugh and enjoy the process of learning, and to leave my mark on this program for future classes at UTRGV.”

Martinez, a graduate of Brown University, in Providence, RI, knew his calling was to come back home to the Valley to be a part of this program, contribute to the community and reconnect with family and friends.