BROWNSVILLE, RGV – About 40 biomedical science students at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley on Nov. 23 attended the first event in the Biomedical Distinguished Lecture Series, to learn more about competency-based education and getting into medical school.

Dr. Steven Lieberman, M.D., is senior dean for administration at the UT Medical Branch at Galveston. He oversees UTMB’s medical student education program, and serves as director of the UT System-wide Innovations in Health Science Education Program.

Lieberman interacted with aspiring medical professionals gathered on the Brownsville Campus in Salon Cassia, in a question and answer format rather than an organized lecture.

“I don’t have a speech, if that’s OK,” Lieberman said. “I’m here more just to talk to you.”

He asked about what is on their minds and encouraged them to discuss their concerns about going to medical school.

“What are you worrying about?” Lieberman asked. “What keeps you up at night?”

The group was primarily made up of UTRGV biomedical science students, whom he called “pioneers” because they are part of a UT System pilot program, based in Brownsville, that utilizes competency-based education like the Accelerated Professional, Relevant, Integrated Medical Education Transformation In Medical Education (APRIME-TIME) and the Total Education Experience (TEx).

He asked the third-year students what are currently are learning in their courses. Many said that they are preparing for the formidable Medical College Admissions Test, known as the MCAT.

“It’s the only thing holding us back from medical school,” said Samantha Olvera, part of the first biomedical cohort, which started in 2013 at UTRGV legacy intuition UT Brownsville.

Lieberman reassured them, however, by telling them many medical schools now emphasize holistic admissions, rather than MCAT scores and grade-point average.

“Instead of just looking at grades and MCAT scores, we try to look at you as people, at what you bring to the table as human beings,” Lieberman said.

Third-year bio-med students also said they are studying molecular biology.

“That’s pretty advanced stuff for college,” Lieberman said. “What you all are doing – it’s a mini version of medical school.”

Chelsey Abraham is part of the second APRIME-TIME cohort and is hoping to graduate spring 2017. She said it was interesting to hear that her current curriculum is similar to what she will encounter in medical school.

“We didn’t know that the classes that we took are actually classes that we would take again in medical school,” Abraham said. “It is comforting now to know that we are getting a head start on knowledge that we’ll probably need in the future.”

APRIME-TIME is a competency-based, pre-medical education program that shortens the process of an undergraduate education into medical education.

Faith Treviño, who is in the second cohort, was comforted by the idea of holistic admissions.

“It used to just be MCAT score or GPA, but now they’re trying to take in the competencies and everything that we’re learning as a whole,” she said.

Hari Movva, a first-year biomedical student, who part of the TEx competency-based bio-med program on the Brownsville Campus. TEx uses iPads to administer hybrid courses, monitor student progress and facilitate communications.

“This lecture prepares us for what we’re going to do in the future,” Movva said of Lieberman’s talk with students. “Attending this event was beneficial to inform us of what we will see in medical school. It is reinforcing that we’re on the right path.”

Third-year student David Castillo attended the event to gain more information on his next steps towards medical school. He is on track to graduate in spring 2016.

“This lecture, in a way, provides us more information on what paths we have to take, and the necessary steps needed to achieve the goal of medical school,” he said.