EL PASO, Texas – A total of 124 students received their first white coats Saturday during a gala for the Foster School of Medicine’s 2026 class of medicine to mark the start of their careers.
The white coat ceremony marks the beginning of a medical student’s first year.
In addition to receiving the coat, students take an oath in front of faculty, family, and peers to acknowledge and reaffirm their choice to serve patients and provide world-class health care.
For the fifth year in a row, Dionicio Álvarez, MD, and his wife, Alice Álvarez, sponsored half of the white coats of medical students, even as class size increased dramatically.
With 124 students, the class of 2026 is one of the largest in the history of Foster School of Medicine. TTUHSC El Paso aims to increase class sizes to 150 in the near future. In 2020, the couple also established the Dionisio and Alice Alvarez Medical Scholarship.
This year’s party was held at the Starlight Events Center and was attended by 124 students, including 19 students from El Paso and Las Cruces. Thanks to the Foster School of Medicine, talented students from our Borderplex with a passion for medicine and community service have the option to apply to a medical school in their hometown.
Since it opened in 2009, there have been nearly 800 Foster College of Medicine alumni who are or are on their way to becoming medical practitioners.
In 2008, before the Foster School of Medicine opened, the average number of direct-care physicians in El Paso County per 100,000 people was 75% below the national average and 37% below the state average. Today, that shortfall is down to 60% compared to the entire country and 28% in all of Texas.
Maria Black, a graduate of the University of Kansas and Tulane, said the white coat represented her responsibility to help the community through education, advocacy and medicine. She understands that she will not have to do this alone, but as part of a reputable and extensive healthcare team. As a former music student, she is ready to join the band.
Black said, “Cooperation is paid to you at music school, and I love to play in a group. You play not only for yourself, but for the whole group.”
“Likewise, you are not the only doctor, you are part of a healthcare team that includes nurses, home care providers, pharmacists, rehabilitation workers and various specialists,” he added.
The music school also helped Black learn to perform under pressure. It is a challenge that you will face during exams, and then practice medicine later.
“Music requires you to filter out all external noise and transcend internal noise, such as self-doubt,” Black said. “It’s about recognizing that you’re the one on stage, or in my case now, medical school enrollment. I’m here for a reason, and I deserve to be here.”
Foster School of Medicine has Spanish medical requirements that help students provide culturally competent care during medical school and throughout their career. It was one of the first medical schools in the United States to incorporate medical Spanish into their curricula.
Foster School of Medicine students receive clinical experience during the first year of the curriculum. This is an unconventional approach among most medical schools in the United States, with students typically beginning a clinical rotation during the third and fourth years of their medical education.