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Personal Experiences Drive Diverse Student Body

Philanthropy and Personal Persistence Fuel Students’ Education


First-year Foster School of Medicine student Melissa Esparza has been given the opportunity to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a doctor, all thanks to the Medical Student Empowerment Fund.


First-year Foster School of Medicine student Melissa Esparza
First-year Foster School of Medicine student Melissa Esparza

Growing up just a couple miles south of El Paso in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, Melissa had always dreamed of one day helping those in need as a medical professional. However, the path to achieving her goal was not an easy one, as financial constraints often stood in her way.


At 12, she and her family moved to El Paso, fleeing a wave of violence that emerged on the other side of the Rio Grande.


“I understood as a woman in Mexico, my opportunities were limited. If I were to have a job, it would have to be in a safe and monitored area. A job with night shifts seemed out of the question,” Esparza said.


Despite these challenges, Melissa remained steadfast in her pursuit of a medical education.


It wasn't until she learned about the Medical Student Empowerment Fund that she felt a glimmer of hope for her future.


With the help of the fund, Melissa was able to focus solely on her studies, without the added stress of worrying about how to pay for her education. She was able to immerse herself in her coursework and take advantage of every opportunity that came her way.


Melissa's story is a testament to the power of philanthropy and the impact it can have on the lives of those in need. Thanks to the generosity of the Medical Student Empowerment Fund, Melissa and other aspiring medical professionals like her can pursue their dreams and make a difference in the world.


Since 2009, the Foster School of Medicine has educated nearly 800 graduates who have become or are becoming practicing physicians. Joining the workforce ensures that Health Professional Shortage Areas like the Borderplex – which includes Texas, New Mexico and Mexico – will meet the demand for access to patient care.


 

Dental Dreams Coming True in Borderplex


Anna Ceniceros, a second-year student at the Hunt School of Dental Medicine, is honing her dentistry skills just a few feet away from where medical students train, thanks to a Feinberg Foundation scholarship.


Second-year Hunt School of Dental Medicine student Anna Ceniceros
Second-year Hunt School of Dental Medicine student Anna Ceniceros

Ceniceros, who comes from Clarendon, Texas, a small town in the Panhandle, is the daughter of hardworking migrant farmworkers. As a child, she had no idea what a dentist did until a field trip to a dental office two hours away from her hometown changed her life. A compassionate provider who explained procedures and calmed her nerves sparked her desire to become a dentist, and she never stopped thinking about it.


"Coming from an underserved area has been integral in my desire to become a dentist," said Ceniceros, who is now fulfilling her lifelong dream. In her second year of dental school, she is also mastering medical Spanish, a requirement unique to the Hunt School of Dental Medicine. The school's curriculum emphasizes clinical experiences from the first semester, setting it apart from traditional dental schools.


Anna Ceniceros was given a sticker from a caring, patient dentist at her first dental visit. That visit became the catalyst for her drive to become a dentist in an underserved community.

In addition to scholarships, the Feinberg Foundation helped get the Texas Tech Dental Oral Health Clinic on the TTUHSC El Paso campus off the ground by equipping dental suites.


This year, the 61-member class of 2026 joined Ceniceros's inaugural class of 40 at the Hunt School of Dental Medicine. Over a third of the class of 2026 hails from West Texas and the U.S.-Mexico border region, including three from New Mexico.


Because most graduating dentists establish practices near their schools, the school will alleviate a shortage of dentists in the Borderplex.


 

In addition to adding more physicians and dentists to the workforce, TTUHSC El Paso is educating future biomedical researchers at the Francis Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences who study the dynamics of health conditions affecting Hispanic populations.


Research conducted by faculty and students at TTUHSC El Paso is crucial in saving lives among our community due to cutting-edge studies that produce results specifically for people of our border region. Often, Hispanics and minorities are underrepresented in studies and clinical trials, meaning the results of those initiatives rarely benefit residents of El Paso County, 82.9% of whom are Hispanic.


 

YOU CAN HELP


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 andrea.tawney@ttuhsc.edu or craig.holden@ttuhsc.edu or visit ttuhscep.edu/elpaso/ia/giving/.

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