“Having that kind of exposure to different fields of study really opens students’ eyes and allows them to change their minds along the way,” she said. “A lot of them start out thinking they’re going to be a doctor or a nurse, but then realize halfway through a modern language course that they might be happier as a medical interpreter.”
The degree has three concentrations: a pre-med degree, which meets the requirements for US medical and dental schools; a Health Careers Diploma, which prepares graduates for a wide variety of health-related careers; and a Pre-Advanced Practice Provider Concentration that prepares students for advanced medical degrees such as Nurse Practitioner.
The program saw its first batch of graduates in 2019, and among these was Elise Garza Williamsa former student of Tekin.
Williams is completing her second year of graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health, where she is part of a dual degree program to earn a Master of Public Health in Public Health Genetics and a Masters of Science in Genetic Counseling. Her goal is to become a genetic counsellor.
“I originally started as a biology student, but knew I wanted to get more involved in a patient-facing role,” Williams said. “The medical humanities courses I took at UTSA helped me to consider different aspects of what a person’s ‘health problem’ might be and taught me to consider a patient in his or her together.”
It is the same person-centred approach to medicine and ethical care that Drew Millar ’20, praises the program for successfully winning over students.
“I don’t think there could have been a better program to give me a foundation for success in medical school; it touches all aspects,” he said. “You don’t miss any of the science, while preparing for what’s really needed to see a patient. This is the human side of medicine.”
More than halfway through his sophomore year at James H. Quillen College of Medicine at East Tennessee State University, Millar is preparing for a career as an orthopedic surgeon. He looks forward to making real connections with his future patients.
“When people are sick, they are in a vulnerable position. I want to make sure I can provide help when they need it most and when I see them they will get the best out of me,” he said. “And the best of me starts with getting the best education.”
As the program continues to attract students interested in a more holistic understanding of medicine, Tekin is strengthening the program with new projects.
External funding in the form of a two-year, $182,000 grant for the U.S. Department of Education’s Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Languages Program that the program received this year is speeding things up.
The money will support current and new initiatives such as Vocalize San Antonio, a project that pairs clinics with remote intern students as medical interpreters, and was created in conjunction with professors from the Modern Languages Department. The grant will also support the development of new courses such as Mental Health Ethics on the Borders.
Tekin is expanding UTSA’s reach and pushing for the medical humanities program to expand internationally as well.
A partnership is already underway with the Collaborating Center for Health and Social Care at the University of Oxford. The graduate program gives students from both universities the opportunity to participate in conferences and create mentorships.