Future doctors from UH medical school aim to serve in underserved areas

The University of Houston medical students are giving back in a major way

HOUSTON – The University of Houston Medical School’s second class of students began this week and will receive their white coats on Saturday.

The school, which started last year during the pandemic, has a mission to serve those in underserved communities. Those communities have also become those most affected by COVID.

Iliana Oberkircher, Taylor Jackson and Said Maldonado are among the new students and it’s a big deal for these three who come from typically underserved medical communities and are among the first in their families to go to college

“I never saw any physicians that were African American nor many female physicians so I saw a need and I knew that I wanted to be the change,” Jackson said.

“I want to serve in a population that’s been historically underserved and I want to serve in a population that needs help the most that they’re not getting right now,” Maldonado said.

Some of what their communities are not getting is: doctors who understand where they come from, look like them, and speak their language.

“My brother had a congenital heart disorder that he was born with and so throughout his life, I was part of his care and helping my mother translate for doctors because she only spoke Spanish. So, that for me was my calling because I knew that there was a need in the Rio Grande Valley and in Texas, especially in Houston,” Oberkircher explained.

UH College of Medicine Class of 2025:

  • 60% underrepresented minorities in medicine (Black and Hispanic)
  • 67% female
  • 53% first generation in college
  • 63% low socioeconomic status

The Dean, Dr. Stephen Spann, said the ultimate plan is to move from 30 students per class to 120.

Simultaneously, UH just received a $1 million gift to start a new kind of primary care facility, which won’t take insurance but a membership payment.

“This is a model where people pay a modest monthly subscription fee for receiving a broad array of monthly care services,” Dr. Spann explained.

The future of primary care medicine is going to look different. Plus, with the mission UH has, and the eager students, the low-income and uninsured can be optimistic about what the future of their health looks like.

“I love Texas and I do want to serve this community because I do think we have the biggest need,” Jackson said.