Over 90 UTMB students from the School of Medicine (SOM) and the School of Health Professions (SHP) stormed the Capitol on the first Tuesday of February. They were greeted on the north steps by our local delegation of Representative Greg Bonnen, Representative Craig Eiland and Senator Larry Taylor. The student group was then introduced to the Legislature in both the House and the Senate, where resolutions were passed declaring it “UTMB DAY” at the Capitol. Senator Taylor was joined by Senator (Doctor) Charles Schwertner in delivering the recognition. Dr. Schwertner is a UTMB graduate and did his orthopedic surgery residency at UTMB; his wife Belinda is also a UTMB SOM graduate.
The Texas Medical Association (TMA) recognized the group at their awards luncheon with two awards: Largest Group and Largest Percentage of Membership from a medical society.
The sea of white coats then spread out all over the Capitol with students visiting with their hometown legislators. Leading the UTMB students were second-year medical students Byron Smith and Kendra Kaderka, first-year medical student Robert McLaughlin, and an array of other health profession students, including Student Government Association Vice President Jonathan Ruzicka, a second-year physical therapy major from the SHP. The students competently expressed their concerns about affordable tuition, availability of loan repayment programs for health care professionals, and the need for more Graduate Medical Education slots in Texas.
After a thorough invasion of the Capitol, the group migrated to the Thompson Auditorium in the nearby TMA building. Joining them were Rep. Eiland, Rep. Bonnen and his wife Kim, and House Higher Education Chairman Dan Branch (whose nephew Daniel W. Branch is a third-year medical student at UTMB). Students spent about an hour and a half discussing the future of medicine with these House members. Rep. Bonnen is a UTMB med school graduate and his wife Kim graduated with a degree in occupational therapy from SHP. Rep. Branch is an attorney and major advocate for Tier I research status for our Health Related Institutions.
The following week, another 35 students from the School of Health Professions added their voices to those who attended the prior week’s health policy activity. These students focused on the allied health science vocations. The group, led by Physical Therapy second-year class president Kevin Villarreal, met with legislators to voice their opinions regarding educational opportunities and student educational support.
Both groups have been highly effective in advocating for their professions and for improvements in higher education. These interprofessional learning opportunities are an integral part of UTMB’s culture. Learning an appreciation for the roles that each of the health professions contribute to the team is essential in improving the quality of health care. Our students truly are working together to work wonders.