Students find medical calling through Conrad Leadership Program internships

Director of Equal Opportunity and Minority Affairs Rosie Canales (second from right) talks to students (from left) Joseph Tejan, Catherine Stodola, and Bogar Garcia, all of whom have participated in the Dr. Emmett J. Conrad Leadership Program at UT Southwestern.

By Lisa Ashley Warshaw

After participating in the Dr. Emmett J. Conrad Leadership Program, Bogar Garcia of Dallas knew medicine was his calling. Now a second-year medical student at UT Southwestern Medical Center, Mr. Garcia credits his UTSW summer internship with helping him solidify his dream to become a doctor.

Since the program’s inception in 1993, UT Southwestern has been a collaborating partner in the Conrad Program. Named in honor of the Dallas-based physician and educational advocate, the program is sponsored by the office of state Sen. Royce West of Dallas and open to minority and disadvantaged students from his senatorial district, which includes parts of east and south Dallas County.

“I’ve always believed that you give a ‘hand-up’ and not a ‘handout,’ and that is what the Conrad Program has been to deserving college students,” Sen. West said.

The program assists promising undergraduate, graduate, and professional-school students in acquiring paid summer internships and includes character-building education and community-service projects. Each year, 50 to 75 organizations and businesses take part in the program, which has placed almost 2,000 interns since 1993. Of those, UT Southwestern has sponsored approximately 130 undergraduate students in the past 19 years.

“Our goal is to provide students with firsthand experience in the medical field, to create inroads, and help future medical students maneuver and manage their career from the start,” said Rosie Canales, Director of Equal Opportunity and Minority Affairs and the program’s administrator at UTSW.

She said the program can have a life-changing impact on participants. That’s what happened to Mr. Garcia. His internship at UTSW convinced him to attend medical school.

 “It gave me the insight into what medicine really was,” he said. “I better understood the environment and knew that this is really what I wanted to do.”

Joseph Tejan, a sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis, was searching for a hospital-based internship offering valuable experience.

 “Without a doubt, this program solidified my interest in pursuing medicine,” said Mr. Tejan, a DeSoto native and first-time participant in the program. “Practicing medicine is what I want to do with the rest of my life.”

Stories like those of Mr. Garcia and Mr. Tejan offer proof to UT Southwestern officials of the program’s value.

“We are able to see the incredible impact this program has on students,” Ms. Canales said. “This is our future of medicine, happening today, here at UT Southwestern.”