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Connecting with Underserved Communities

Updated: Feb 6

One-of-a-Kind Course Immerses Students in Borderplex Culture

New medical and dental students immerse themselves in El Paso’s culture while honing clinical Spanish skills

The immersion courses – Society, Community and the Individual, and Conversational/Clinical Spanish – are the first courses medical and dental students complete before they begin studying medicine and dentistry in August to kick off “Year One” at TTUHSC El Paso.

Immersion has been part of curriculum since the medical school opened in 2009. The new Hunt School of Dental Medicine also adopted immersion into its curriculum, and its inaugural class completed the courses in summer 2021.

TTUHSC El Paso immersion professors said it’s a one-of-a-kind course offering that sets the Foster School of Medicine and the Hunt School of Dental Medicine apart from other medical and dental programs across the country.

Courses for first-year students help them understand the region’s health care needs

“It’s an opportunity to get students immersed in the local community and learn about their future patients in their first weeks on campus,” said Lee Rosenthal, Ph.D., M.S., M.P.H., director of the medical component of the SCI course and assistant professor in the Foster School of Medicine.

Working on Spanish language skills is the other important aspect of immersion because language and cultural barriers can also be obstacles to communication and self-advocacy for underserved patients.

Research shows that patients with limited English proficiency greatly benefit from bilingual health care providers and are more likely to understand diagnosis and treatment and adhere to medication and routine care.

“Our Spanish instructors are very understanding and patient with us as we're learning,” said Kyanna Spain, a first-year dental student from El Paso. “I really like the information we've been getting and the discussions we've had because cultural competency will be very important as a future provider.”



At TTUHSC El Paso, we are committed to growing our own health care heroes and changing the state of health care in our Borderplex. For more information about how you can help, please contact or or visit

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