GOOD NEWS: Sul Ross student uses internships in path to medical career

ALPINE Jesus Guerrero uses rejections for stepping stones on a path that he hopes will eventually find its way to the operating room.
Guerrero, El Paso, a junior biology major at Sul Ross State University, plans a career in medicine as a heart surgeon.
To date, his persistence has been rewarded with medical internships in Houston, Juarez, Mexico, and most recently, Big Bend Regional Medical Center (BBRMC), Alpine.
“I am not afraid of failure,” he said. “Before Houston (a six-week internship at McGovern Medical School), I was turned down four times. I did not get discouraged; I just kept going.”
Last summer, Guerrero shadowed physicians at McGovern, as one of 80 students selected from around the nation.
“As a Sul Ross student, I was from the smallest university (represented),” he said. “I was a little overwhelmed on the first day; only one other intern even knew where Sul Ross was. But, when we had a chance to prove ourselves, all my scores measured up.”
And more, because of his strong showing in the associated coursework, Guerrero was the only intern invited to work in Mexico, a stint that completed his summer. Last fall, he completed an internship through Sul Ross’ Experiential Learning program at BBRMC, supervised by John Ray. He also shadowed Ekta and Raphael Escovar.
Guerrero’s BBRMC internship was one of about 30, mostly paid positions, coordinated through the Experiential Learning program, funded through a Title V grant, since February 2016. Presently, 12 internships are in progress or scheduled for Summer 2017.
“Internships enhance classroom learning through career-related work experience in corporate and private businesses, government agencies and non-profit organizations,” said Jenny Penland, Sul Ross Title V Activity Director /Director of Experiential Learning. She added that Guerrero has taken full advantage of all his internship opportunities.
“Jesus is totally engaged and dedicated to his goal,” Penland said. “He never limits himself and I truly admire his determination.”
In addition to internships and his regular coursework, Guerrero is in the Honors Program, is a McNair Program scholar, completing undergraduate research projects, and has taken a number of accelerated science courses, particularly organic chemistry, physics and biochemistry.
He has also submitted several more internship applications, including a 10-week chemistry program at the University of North Texas, and one with a thoracic surgery program in Hawaii.
While practicing heart surgery remains his goal, Guerrero said his internship experiences, ranging from pediatrics to general practice, have “opened a whole new door.”
“I did not think I would become so attached to children, but through shadowing a pediatrician, I learned even more of the human side of medicine and the compassion that is needed.”
Guerrero said that working with Ray at BBRMC “really boosted my confidence. He took me under is wing, and having a doctor who believes in you really made me committed.”
Guerrero, who plans to take his MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) this summer in addition to his course loads and internships, credited both his birth and Sul Ross families for inspiration.
“My grandfather (who passed away in the middle of Guerrero’s Houston internship) was the biggest advocate of me being a doctor,” he said. “He motivated me and gave me the right values to work hard. He was an immigrant who worked hard to get his family to this country, and even though he had almost no formal education himself, he valued education greatly.”
“I pray for the right tools (to reach his goal), and some of those right tools have been my professors,” Guerrero said. “They believed in me before I believed in myself. My fellow students in the sciences are very competitive and the faculty has challenged me. At Sul Ross, I fell into the right family away from home. I thank God for putting the right people in my path and for all the sacrifices they have made for me.”
Penland praised the efforts of faculty and staff, including Chris Ritzi (biology), Sean Graham (biology), Yanfeng Yue (chemistry), Anirban Bhattacharjee (physics), David Leaver (chemistry), McNair Program director Dominique Vargas, Kathy Stein, Honors Program coordinator/director, Academic Center for Excellence, Nora Ohnishi, Wildenthal Library, and Liz Castillo, director of Student Support Services.
“They have all been really helpful in Jesus’ progress,” she said. “This is truly a collaborative effort.”