MHIRT Alum on Path to Bright Future in Dental Medicine
Paulette Ramirez, a UTEP alum and former MHIRT (Minority Health International Research Training) Program participant, has received a generous $66,000 scholarship from the GECU Foundation to support her studies at the Woody L. Hunt School of Dental Medicine at Texas Tech UHC-El Paso.
The MHIRT program, a university-wide initiative administered by the College of Health Sciences, prepares UTEP students across all major health disciplines for an intensive summer research internship at partnering institutions in Central and South America. Prior to the summer internship, all MHIRT trainees participate in numerous activities, including academic preparation in Hispanic health disparities, directed research methods and pre-departure cultural orientation. Upon completion of their MHIRT research projects, all trainees present their work in a public forum. Last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MHIRT activities were temporarily suspended.
Ramirez, who participated in MHIRT prior to the onset of the pandemic, said it was the opportunity to become immersed in another culture that first drew her attention to the program, where she was assigned to a partner institution in Costa Rica and gained soft skills while working on her research project.
“Living in Costa Rica for eight weeks made me more culturally diverse, and I learned how to build good relationships with those with whom I work,” she said. “It strengthened my leadership skills as well as my knowledge about how to work on a team. And last, but not least, MHIRT taught me the importance of targeting health disparities as a future professional in the healthcare system.”
Upon concluding her MHIRT experience and graduating from UTEP, Ramirez took the next step in her academic career and applied to the Woody L. Hunt School of Dental Medicine, where she hopes to complete her degree and eventually specialize in orthodontics. She says that receiving the GECU Foundation scholarship has provided another incentive to remain in the area.
“GECU is one of the strongest businesses in El Paso and is very committed to the community,” she explained. “Receiving this scholarship from them…says that they believe in me and are looking out for my success in becoming a dental provider in the near future, so I can serve the amazing community of El Paso, Texas.”
Ramirez said that she would highly encourage other students thinking about applying for MHIRT, where she first discovered her passion for identifying and alleviating health disparities.
“The [MHIRT] experience expands our limits that, at many times, constrict our goals because we think that these opportunities only happen to more advantaged people,” she said. “Once [students] become a MHIRTEE, my best advice would be to be open-minded to every situation they are faced with, learn from them, and take these lived-experiences to the next level.”
Photo courtesy of Pamela Ramirez
For additional information on the MHIRT program, please visit the website at: https://www.utep.edu/chs/mhirt/ or call the MHIRT Program Office at 915-747-8585