When Victoria Ibarra-Aleman was a girl in Mexico City, her mother brought home a curiosity from the market: a cow’s heart, wrapped in newspaper. 

Her mother, a physician, opened the head-sized slab on the table. 

“Play with it,” she said.

“With my little hands, you know, I’m trying to find where all the holes go,” Ibarra-Aleman remembers. “And looking back, I was like, ‘Wow, we have a heart — something like this is in us, too.” 

More than two decades later, Ibarra-Aleman is almost a physician herself. A fourth-year medical student at The University of North Texas Health Science Center’s Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, she’s creating spaces for young people to foster their own interest in medicine. 

The next opportunity is High School Day, a free event on Friday, Feb. 3 for high school students to learn about careers in medicine — what they look like and how to pursue them. Although the event’s focus is students from communities who are underrepresented in the health care professions, anyone is welcome to attend.

High School Day, which takes place on the Health Science Center’s campus in Fort Worth, is organized by the Latino Medical Student Association. Ibarra-Aleman is the chief information officer for the association’s Southwest region. She hopes the day will ignite “a little fire” for all who attend. 

If you go:

What: High School Day by the Latino Medical Student Association – Southwest Region. Any high school student is welcome to attend. Registration is required, but the event is free and both breakfast and lunch will be provided. 

When: 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 3.

Where: Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine
3500 Camp Bowie Blvd.
Fort Worth, TX 76107

The deadline to register is Friday, Jan. 27. Learn how to register here.

In Texas, Latinos make up almost 40% of the population, but only about 10% of the primary care physician workforce in the state. A disparity also exists for Black Americans, albeit more narrow.

High School Day is one step along a pipeline the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine is building to draw underrepresented students to the medical field.

Last summer, the school hosted its inaugural Latinos En Medicina camp, a three-day program for children ages 10-13 who may one day work in medicine. In March, the school will host its second iteration — this time for high school students. 

The camp complements an endeavor by the Student National Medical Association: Mini-Medical School, a monthly after-school program also meant to introduce children to careers in health. 

“We want to make sure (students) know there are people just like them who grew up in similar situations and similar backgrounds, who have made it,” said Owen Saenz, a second-year medical student at the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine. 

Saenz is also the chapter president for the Latino Medical Student Association and has helped plan High School Day. The itinerary includes a mix of lectures, discussions and hands-on workshops, he said. The Association will provide free breakfast and lunch.

In the morning, students will learn about the Joint Admission Medical Program, which supports young people in Texas who want to become physicians but don’t have many resources to do so. The program provides undergraduate scholarships, summer internships, MCAT preparation and guaranteed admission into one Texas medical school.

Before lunch, the schedule also includes a splinting workshop and health professions panel, where attendees will hear from students studying to become a physician assistant, pharmacist, physical therapist, researcher and doctor. 

After lunch, students will learn to stitch wounds in a suture clinic and explore a college fair tabled by representatives from a handful of Texas schools.

“Learning isn’t just about sitting down and listening,” Saenz said. “What we want to do is show the students that learning comes in different ways.”

Ibarra-Aleman hopes students leave High School Day encouraged and ready to pursue next steps. 

“I would hope that they’re feeling a sense of belonging and a sense of pride,” she said. “And just knowing that, if (medicine is) what they so choose to do, that they can do it, and that we will be here supporting them.”

Alexis Allison is the health reporter at the Fort Worth Report. Her position is supported by a grant from Texas Health Resources. Contact her at alexis.allison@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Alexis AllisonHealth Reporter

Alexis Allison covers health for the Fort Worth Report. When she can, she'll slip in an illustration or two. Allison is a former high school English teacher and hopes her journalism is likewise educational....