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HPA Students Take the Direct Route to Medical School

Beginning in the fall of 2012, the Houston Premedical Academy (HPA) at the University of Houston moves into the Honors College. Each year, the program invites students from the Michael E. DeBakey High School for Health Professions to apply for up to ten conditionally guaranteed slots at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM).

While the program has been in existence since 1996, with the new MCAT and medical school focus on ethics, cultural studies, and philosophy, BCM believes that exposure to liberal arts in the Honors College—including the Human Situation course and the Medicine & Society minor—would benefit HPA students and their future careers. According to Dr. Simon Bott, one of the program’s advisors, “The new MCAT has really put teeth into the previously only-stated desire of medical schools to enroll and produce well-rounded physicians. The Honors College general curriculum and Medicine & Society minor are tailor-made to not just meet but exceed the requirements of the new MCAT. Thus, these students will not only benefit from the friendly and collegial environment of the Honors College, but will receive a wonderful, rigorous, and broad pre-med education.”

The incoming HPA class recently met with Honors Assistant Dean Jodie Köszegi, who is also one of the program’s advisors, to discuss updated program requirements. Beyond the requirement to join the Honors College, the students may take any undergraduate major and agree to maintain an overall and science grade point average of at least 3.5, to make better than a C in all the required BCM pre-requisite courses—taking any of those possible in an Honors section—and to earn at least a 30 on the MCAT. 

In addition, students are expected to live on campus and have regular meetings with advisors and faculty mentors. Students will also join the Medicine & Society minor, complete an internship with a BCM-affiliated hospital or clinic, and participate in a mentored research project such as a SURF, PURS, or thesis. In return, HPA students receive tuition support for all four years at the University of Houston, a housing stipend for their freshman year, all the supports and benefits of the Honors College, and—most importantly—entry into Baylor College of Medicine.

Agnes Perry, principal of the DeBakey High School, provides some background for the relationship between DeBakey and the University of Houston. “DeBakey has had a strong relationship with the University of Houston for over forty years, and approximately fifty percent of our students already matriculate into the University of Houston each year.” She continued, “We are very excited about the new partnership. The students selected each year for the Houston Premedical Academy will benefit from the courses, resources, and mentoring that the Honors College affords students who qualify for the program.”

The program brings benefits both to the students and to the Honors College. As Köszegi recently explained to the incoming students, Human Sit and other Honors classes will require them to become better communicators, something on which medical schools are placing increasing importance, and will “teach students how to triage—how to make decisions about what’s most important” in papers, in classes, and in time management. 

While the students who entered the program in previous years are governed by their agreements with BCM, Honors is committed to this cohort as well, welcoming them to Honors if they wish, offering the benefits of Honors affiliation, and giving them access to the program’s advisors: Köszegi, Bott, and Dr. Helen Valier.

The HPA students are clearly an asset for the College in themselves, but as Medicine & Society coordinator Helen Valier said, the program’s “expansion and outreach offer a bridge both to the high schools and to the medical center.” She hopes the program will also serve as a “template for Honors’ interaction with other medical schools.”

“BCM is delighted that the HPA is now part of the Honors College at UH,” said Stephen Greenberg, MD, Dean of Medical Education at BCM. “This new strategic direction will strengthen our partnership with UH by providing exceptional academic and skill-building opportunities that prepare students to excel at BCM and in future medical practice.”