It was still dark early Tuesday morning as more than 140 students from UTMB Health'sSchools of Medicine, Nursing and Health Professions gathered in the parking lot of the Primary Care Pavilion to board buses to Austin to fight for their school.

Given the early hour (5:30 a.m.), their spirits were high as they boarded the bus, eager to share their stories with legislators in Austin.

“Other schools may have shinier, newer buildings, but they don’t have the people or the community that UTMB does,” Lexanne Edington, a first-year medical student from Houston, said. Edington later visited the office of Rep. George Lavender, of Texarkana. “I told them we still don’t even have first floors on some of our buildings, but we are back and in business,” she said.

The students were greeted on the Capitol steps by state Reps. Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, and state Sen. Juan Hinojosa, who thanked the students for taking time to advocate for their school.

“What you are doing is important, and you are the best possible representatives for UTMB and Galveston,” Eiland said.

Philip Hendley, a first-year medical student from Abilene, said he wanted to showcase the medical branch.

“We have all worked hard to get here, and UTMB offers something the other schools don’t,” he said. “It is not cutthroat at UTMB. The students help each other. And, in the final analysis, that makes us better doctors.”

As the students filed into the House and Senate chambers, lawmakers and guests grew quiet as they saw the medical branch students, dressed in white coats and UT scrubs. The silence quickly gave way to applause from visitors and representatives alike.

Eiland, speaking from the House floor, introduced the students in the gallery, and Sen. Mike Jackson introduced them in the Senate.

The students’ education continued at the Texas Medical Association, where they were served lunch and listened to physicians from across the state who had traveled to Austin to discuss several bills with their representatives, including the nonsmoking bill.

The student trip was made possible by the generosity of several Galveston residents, including Fredell Rosen and Ann Masel, medical branch supporters who made sure the students had breakfast on the bus.

“We are so proud of the students,” Rosen said. “They are taking the time out of their busy schedules to advocate for their school. Their efforts will benefit UTMB and the residents of Galveston and the future patients these young women and men will be caring for.”

As he wrote a thank-you note to Rep. David Simpson, from East Texas, Jeremy Hall, a first-year medical student, said he was glad to have this experience.

“I was proud to tell them I was from UTMB,” he said.