WestStar gifts TTUHSC El Paso $500,000 for matching scholarships

WestStar gifts TTUHSC El Paso $500,000 for matching scholarships

Lobby of newest TTUHSC El Paso building named in honor of WestStar

WestStar is laying the foundation for the education of future health care professionals and inviting others to do the same.

The El Paso-based financial institution announced a $500,000 gift to Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso on Monday, Jan. 31. The funds will be used to match other donors’ contributions for new scholarships across the university’s four schools: the Foster School of Medicine, Hunt School of Nursing, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Hunt School of Dental Medicine.

WestStar executive team, including Executive Chairman Rick Francis, presented TTUHSC El Paso President Richard Lange, M.D., M.B.A., with a check during Monday’s ceremony. Dr. Lange announced that in just a few short months since WestStar’s commitment, our community began stepping up to double the scholarships for TTUHSC El Paso students to nearly $1 million.

“The generosity of WestStar and our donors is a testament to their belief in our mission and the collective impact our community can make with the visionary leadership of partners like WestStar,” said Dr. Lange, who is also dean of the Foster School of Medicine. “Our health care leaders of tomorrow are hard at work pursuing careers that still hold many unknowns and challenges amid a worldwide pandemic. By removing financial barriers, our community is investing in those who will serve on the front lines of our hospitals where they’re needed the most.” 

In appreciation of WestStar’s generous gift, TTUHSC El Paso announced the lobby of Medical Sciences Building II (MSB II) will now be known as the WestStar Grand Lobby. MSB II officially opened in 2021. It houses research laboratory space, the Hunt School of Dental Medicine’s Dental Learning Center, state-of-the-art classrooms with a 500-seat auditorium and an entire floor dedicated to student services.

“To help our community through these challenging times, we must ensure more students have the opportunity to receive an education from TTUHSC El Paso and that they’re ready to enter their respective health care fields after graduation,” said Francis, a former Texas Tech University System Board of Regents chairman and current chair of the TTUHSC El Paso President’s Development Council. “Over the past decade, the university has closed the gap of health care professional shortages in the Borderland, and WestStar is proud to play a part in that trend. With this gift, we urge others in our community to join us in supporting the students who are committed to serving others. Improving access to quality health care starts with growing our own and that’s at the core of TTUHSC El Paso’s mission.”

Local donors who have already taken advantage of WestStar’s matching fund include Cliff and Martha Eisenberg, the Aguilar Family Foundation and the Porras family. This shared philanthropy means more students will have the opportunity to pursue their dream of a lifelong career in health care and service to their community. 

Joshua Torres, a first-year Foster School of Medicine student, tearfully reflected on his journey from El Paso High School to the Hunt School of Nursing, then to the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. He is the first student in TTUHSC El Paso history to attend three of the university’s four schools. 

Torres, an El Paso native raised by his mother, had always dreamed of a career in health care, but held back because of the financial burden that comes with a medical education. In a car ride to finalize his registration at NMSU to pursue mathematics, he admitted to his mother that his passion was in health care. That U-turn on the highway changed his life, and he later became a TTUHSC El Paso scholarship recipient, earning a scholarship for each school he’s attended.

“Scholarship support always helps,” Torres said. “As my colleagues can confirm, sometimes a car breaks down, a family member gets sick, you don’t know if you have enough money to pay the rent, or you have to stop working full time to study. Scholarships help alleviate these obstacles and provide more leverage for students to fully concentrate on our studies and our community. The financial burden is not only removed from us, but from our teams, those who help keep us going – be it our parents, siblings, spouse or children.” 

TTUHSC El Paso is the only health sciences center on the U.S.-Mexico border and serves 108 counties in West Texas that have been historically underserved. It is one of only two health sciences centers in the nation designated as Title V Hispanic-Serving Institutions, preparing the next generation of health care heroes, 48% of whom identify as Hispanic. Currently, 52% of TTUHSC El Paso students are from border counties throughout Texas.

More than 10 years ago, prior to the opening of the Foster School of Medicine, El Paso County’s average number of direct care physicians per 100,000 people was 75% less than the national average. Currently, the county faces a 50% shortage.

Likewise, before the Hunt School of Nursing opened, El Paso County faced a 40% shortage of nurses compared to the national average. Since then, the number of registered nurses in the county has increased by 45% since nearly 90% of nursing graduates stay to practice in the region. 

And as the first dental school to open in Texas in over 50 years, the Hunt School of Dental Medicine will close the gap in dental health disparities in West Texas. The school welcomed its first class of 40 students in 2021 and will welcome 60 students per year subsequently.

WestStar is a locally owned community bank with assets of more than $2.6 billion. Servicing the El Paso, Las Cruces, and northern Mexico area (collectively known as the Borderplex region), it provides businesses and retail consumers local access to a broad array of banking, wealth management, insurance, and title services. Additionally, WestStar team members serve on over 60 boards and committees of nonprofit and civic organizations and participate in a wide range of community betterment efforts and philanthropic causes.

Check out our photos from the announcement event: