All Three Schools Celebrate In-Person Commencement for First Time Since 2019
The Foster School of Medicine Class of 2021 received a real-life education that most medical students likely never encounter.
“We were a peculiar class because not only did we go through the COVID-19 pandemic, but we were also rotating in local hospitals when the tragedy happened at Walmart on Aug. 3, 2019,” said Dominic Betancourt, one of 91 Foster School of Medicine students who graduated on Friday, May 21. Betancourt is from El Paso and attended Burges High School.
Betancourt was on an overnight surgery rotation at University Medical Center of El Paso and had just returned home when he heard about the shooting. He immediately went back to the hospital to assist with the aftermath.
Like other students, Betancourt had to adjust to a new way of life due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I lost a very close family member during the pandemic,” he said. “It was a rough time, both education-wise and in my personal life.”
All members of the Class of 2021 matched to residency programs across the nation and in El Paso, including programs at TTUHSC El Paso.
Betancourt will do his internal medicine residency at the Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso Transmountain clinical practice, a collaboration between The Hospitals of Providence Transmountain Campus and TTUHSC El Paso. TTP El Paso is the medical practice of the Foster School of Medicine.
Medical residents often remain in the region in which they are trained, fulfilling the Foster School of Medicine’s mission to increase the number of practicing physicians to care for the medically underserved in the El Paso region.
Currently, there are more than 600 graduates of the Foster School of Medicine who have become or are on their way to becoming practicing physicians.
This month, TTUHSC El Paso honored students from the Foster School of Medicine, Hunt School of Nursing and Graduate School of
Biomedical Sciences with in-person commencement ceremonies at the historic Plaza Theatre in Downtown El Paso.
Spring commencement ceremonies a year ago were conducted virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while commencement ceremonies in December 2020 were conducted with limited in-person formats.
Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
Twenty-six students graduated with a Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences and 11 students received post-baccalaureate certificates in biomedical sciences on Friday, May 7.
Joshua P. Torres, a graduate of El Paso High School, was one of the 26 who graduated with a master’s degree. It’s his second degree from TTUHSC El Paso – he earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the Hunt School of Nursing in 2016. He will attend the Foster School of Medicine in the fall. Torres is the only student in TTUHSC El Paso’s eight-year history who’s graduated from HSON, GSBS and is going to the FSOM.
“My undergraduate venture in nursing school helped substantiate my calling for the health sciences,” Torres said. “Both nursing school and working as a registered nurse at University Medical Center of El Paso refined my attention to my job and enhanced my critical thinking abilities, which proved invaluable in fulfilling the graduate requirements of the GSBS, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
For Elizabeth Medina of Las Cruces, New Mexico, science has always been a part of her life. She earned a post-baccalaureate certificate in biomedical sciences from the GSBS and will attend the Foster School of Medicine to continue her journey in the health sciences.
“I’ve been a science girl as long as I can remember,” Medina said. “My first books were of anatomy and physiology, and I used to spend hours looking at the diagrams in Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy. My dad used to build different constructions or inventions in our backyard, and I’d help with those as well. I was fascinated with human biological studies, animal studies, engineering, interplanetary systems, etc. If you can name it and it’s related to science, I’m interested.”
As of 2020, more than 70 students have graduated from the GSBS. Most GSBS graduates attend medical or dental school or pursue their Ph.D. after graduation.
Hunt School of Nursing
Fifty-one students who completed the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (B.S.N.) program and 15 who completed the R.N. to B.S.N. program at the Hunt School of Nursing were recognized during a commencement and pinning ceremony on Saturday, May 8. Three students graduated with a Master of Science in Nursing.
This year is especially noteworthy as Hunt School of Nursing students have earned their degrees during a worldwide pandemic. As part of their education, they completed 1,008 hours of clinical rotations, including in local hospitals, caring for patients with COVID-19.
John Kirtley, who graduated with a degree from the Accelerated B.S.N. program, said he plans to work as a nurse locally and continue his service to the country as a member of the U.S. Navy Reserve. Kirtley is from El Paso and graduated from Austin High School.
“Since I was a young boy, anatomy and physiology have always interested me,” Kirtley said. “Now that I get to apply the knowledge I’ve gained from nursing school in real life, I can say I’ve found my purpose in life.”
Part of Kirtley’s clinical rotations included helping administer the COVID-19 vaccine at the El Paso County Coliseum through University Medical Center of El Paso.
“The COVID-19 virus really opened my eyes to the fact that during a pandemic, life goes on,” Kirtley said. “Babies are still being delivered, and people are still getting into accidents, and I was a part of that experience because clinicals continued for TTUHSC El Paso students.”
To date, the Hunt School of Nursing has graduated more than 800 students, with a vast majority of those graduates staying in the region.
The school of nursing currently has partnerships with every hospital in the El Paso community, which includes both clinical rotation opportunities and job placements post-graduation.
This year, TTUHSC El Paso is celebrating the Hunt School of Nursing’s 10-year anniversary and its contributions to higher education and health care as it addresses the critical shortage of nurses in West Texas.
Photos from the 2021 Foster School of Medicine Commencement:
Photos from the 2021 Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Commencement:
Photos from the 2021 Hunt School of Nursing Commencement: