Dr. Rudy Alvarez (center) hands a check to members of the Auxiliary to South Texas Health System
With a continuing need for more physicians in the Rio Grande Valley to enable greater access to healthcare, the pursuit of an education in the healthcare field among rising college students is always encouraged. But a medical degree can be an expensive pursuit that can prove an insurmountable obstacle for many prospective students. The cost of medical school has risen by nearly $1,500 every year since 2015 and is now estimated to cost an average of $57,574 per year, according to Education Data Initiative.
Dr. Rudy Alvarez, medical director for pathology and infection prevention at South Texas Health System, is all too familiar with the expenses that come with medical school. Throughout his undergraduate education at the University of Texas Pan-American, now the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, and during medical school at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Alvarez received financial assistance for school expenses from the Auxiliary to South Texas Health System.
The Auxiliary to STHS is the hospital system’s nonprofit organization comprised of hospital volunteers. Through sales in the hospital gift shops at STHS McAllen and STHS Edinburg, they raise funds to assist students pursuing a career in the medical field. Since 1953, the organization has awarded more than $4 million in scholarships to local students, including STHS employees aiming to advance their healthcare careers by furthering their education.
Alvarez and his sister volunteered with the Auxiliary when they were in high school and later were selected as scholarship recipients. While Alvarez doesn’t recall exactly how much he received from the group, he remembers how instrumental the funds were to him, especially during tight financial situations.
“The funds always came at critical moments, and it meant the world to us,” Alvarez said. “Oftentimes, we weren’t able to afford the books that we needed — our dad was an electrician, and he was a single parent — so the money helped us a lot.”
Now a board-certified pathologist, Alvarez has been with South Texas Health System for nearly 12 years and has been choosing to pay it forward by donating funds to other students hoping to pursue a career in medicine for several years. Last month, Alvarez presented the Auxiliary with a $10,000 donation for their scholarship fund, his third donation to the group and his largest to date.
Alvarez is grateful to the Auxiliary’s Board of Directors and members for their commitment to helping local students pursue careers in the medical field, which ultimately helps increase the healthcare workforce in the Rio Grande Valley. “Whether it allows students to purchase books or helps with their tuition, every single donation matters,” Alvarez said. “Students and families from the Rio Grande Valley are at a significant disadvantage and the Auxiliary’s work makes it possible to increase the number of physicians and nurses here at home. Thank you to the Auxiliary; they are the ones who made it happen for me and they are part of my story.”
Because of contributions like Alvarez’s and the volunteers’ continued efforts to raise funds, the Auxiliary can continue investing in students like him. For the fall 2023 semester, the Auxiliary awarded approximately $35,000 in scholarships and another $35,000 are expected to be awarded to students for the spring 2024 semester.