GALVESTON, Texas – There are times when stepping outside your comfort zone can be educational, which is certainly the case for students in the honors nursing program at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

And sometimes getting out of your comfort zone literally means getting out of a classroom or laboratory and learning firsthand what health concerns and ailments Texans are facing. So last year, the honors class students at UTMB’s School of Nursing traveled to Tyler County, specifically Woodville, to help teach residents how to manage chronic diseases.

This year students traveled to Beaumont in August to work in clinics which are part of the Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas – Beaumont where they helped patients with cardiovascular disease education, and AIDS patients with disease management.

Cherry Beckworth, associate professor and baccalaureate program director explained why this kind of experience is important: “It provides students with a broader view of health care in Texas and helps create good leaders that are aware of the health care needs of different locales.”

Beckworth noted that “UTMB’s nursing honors program is for the best and the brightest,” adding that honors students are only accepted in the fall and must meet the requirements of a 3.75 grade point average and a score of 85 or greater on their Test of Essential Academic Skills. Prior to acceptance students must also submit an essay on underserved health needs of Texas residents.

And it’s during their third semester that honors students participate in a project that is outside of the immediate Galveston area such as Woodville and Beaumont.

Honors student Gabrielle Casilang from Sugar Land selected the UTMB program after visiting and seeing what the Galveston campus offered.

“UTMB’s honors program is very unique and unlike other programs in the Houston area or state. The opportunity to utilize skills learned outside of the area is a fantastic opportunity,” said Casilang

Casilang expects that having participated in the project will provide her with a better perspective of health care in different communities as she advances in her career.

“We are blessed in the metropolitan area to have access to care that others may not,” said Casilang. “During our two week community outreach being in an area where access is a luxury and the fact we can make a difference is rewarding.”

As she continues in the field of nursing Casilang would like to work with health care policy and underserved populations.

UTMB School of Nursing officials stress that the program should help not only Casilang, but also other students by expanding their employment opportunities.

The community project is part of UTMB’s participation in the Texas Medicaid 1115 Waiver project which aims to transform the health care delivery system.

UTMB serves as the anchor for Region 2, which includes the counties of Galveston, Brazoria, Jefferson, Hardin, Liberty, Orange, San Jacinto, Polk, Tyler, Jasper, Newton, Angelina, San Augustine, Sabine, Nacogdoches and Shelby.

Systems of care to ensure patients receive the right care, at the right time, and in the right setting is one of the project’s primary goals. By participating in the out of town community outreach, honors nursing students help address the unique local needs of patients.

According to Beckworth UTMB’s School of Nursing strives to produce health care professionals who will be ready to address the needs of a diverse population.

“It is not only our honors students that are the best of the best; we have many students that we know will go on to make a difference wherever they end up taking care of patients in the future.”


Click here for a photograph of honors students: L – R Dean Vanek, Sarah Robinson, Gabrielle Casilang, Nola Akiwowo, Craig Kovacevich, associate VP waiver operations, Cherry Beckworth, associate professor, Hunter Cherryhomes.