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McWilliams School of Biomedical Informatics

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SBMI Growth in South Texas

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015
written by Jeanette Broshears

University of Texas at Brownsville 4+1 Program campus

In the short period of time since the School of Biomedical Informatics was established in South Texas, we have witnessed exponential growth semester after semester. The program started in the fall of 2013 with just three students and currently, there are more than 30 students in South Texas that are a part of SBMI programs.

We believe the growth is a reflection of the students of the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) truly understanding the importance of health informatics to the implementation and application of healthcare in a digitalized age. The RGV is one of the most medically underserved communities in the United States and SBMI’s ability to teach and train new health informatics (HI) specialists will be vital to updating the quality of healthcare in the region.

Through our graduate certificate and master’s programs, our RGV students are becoming equipped with the skills and information needed to succeed academically and professionally. Additionally, the convenience of our online degrees has prompted many healthcare professionals and returning students to take advantage of the opportunity to continue their educational careers, while working. We have also been able to partner with leading healthcare providers in the RGV, such as Doctor’s Hospital Renaissance and Valley Baptist, to provide continuing education programs to their valued employees.

In an effort to provide early training to our community’s future healthcare professionals, UTHealth and the University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB) partnered together to offer the 4 + 1 program in Health Informatics to the students of UTB. This program allows undergraduate students the opportunity to complete a graduate certificate in HI while working towards their bachelor’s degree. The 4 + 1 is still in its infancy, but SBMI has already witnessed students aspire to continue their education and earn a Master of Science degree in Health Informatics and begin planning their future careers in the field. Similar to the overall growth of the SBMI program in the RGV region, the 4 + 1 program has grown from one student in the fall of 2014 to having 18 prospective students for the upcoming summer semester.

Furthermore, our M.S. program grants students the opportunity to directly interact with professionals in the HI field at practicum sites in the RVG area. Upon graduation our students are able to connect the concepts of data, communication, and healthcare to the mission of health informatics; applying data to improve patient care and treatment. Possessing the knowledge and experience provided by the SBMI programs allows RGV students the opportunity to secure jobs in the field and begin filling the vacant HI positions desperately needed to improve healthcare in the Valley.