EL PASO, Texas — A total of 124 students received their first white coats Saturday during a ceremony for the Foster School of Medicine class of 2026 marking the start of their careers.
The white coat ceremony marks the beginning of a medical student’s first year.
In addition to receiving the coat, students take an oath in front of faculty, family, and peers to recognize and reaffirm their choice to serve patients and provide compassionate, world-class healthcare.
For the fifth year in a row, Dionicio Álvarez, MD, and his wife Alice Álvarez sponsored half of medical students’ white coats, even as class size has increased substantially.
With 124 students, the class of 2026 is one of the largest in the history of the Foster School of Medicine. TTUHSC El Paso has a goal of increasing class sizes to 150 in the near future. In 2020, the couple also established the Dionisio and Alice Alvarez Medical Scholarship Endowment.
This year’s ceremony was held at the Starlight Events Center and was attended by 124 students, including 19 from El Paso and Las Cruces. Thanks to Foster School of Medicine, talented students from our Borderplex with a passion for medicine and serving the community have the option to apply to medical school in their hometown.
Since its opening in 2009, there have been nearly 800 Foster School of Medicine graduates who have become or are on their way to becoming practicing physicians.
In 2008, prior to the opening of 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 and 37% less than the state average. Today, that shortage is down to 60% compared to the entire country and 28% in all of Texas.
Mariah Black, a graduate of the University of Kansas and Tulane University, said the white coat represents the responsibility placed on her to help the community through education, advocacy and medicine. She understands that she will not have to do it alone, but as part of a prestigious and extensive health care team. As a former music student, she is ready to join the ensemble.
“Collaboration is pushed on you in music school, and I love playing in a group. You’re not just playing for yourself, but for the whole group,” Black said.
“Similarly, you are not the only doctor; you are part of a health care team with nurses, home caregivers, pharmacists, rehabilitation workers and various specialists,” he added.
Music school also helped Black learn to perform under pressure. It is a challenge that she will experience during exams and, later, practicing medicine.
“Music requires you to filter out all the external noise and get past the internal noise, like self-doubt,” Black said. “It’s about acknowledging that you’re the one onstage, or in my case now, enrolled in medical school. I’m here for a reason, and I deserve to be here.”
Foster School of Medicine has a Spanish medical requirement that helps students provide culturally competent care during medical school and throughout their careers. It was one of the first medical schools in the United States to integrate medical Spanish into its curriculum.
Foster School of Medicine students receive clinical experience within the first year of the curriculum. This is an unconventional approach among most medical schools in the United States, where students typically begin clinical rotations during the third and fourth years of their medical education.