Medical Student Loan Program

Jennifer Lopez and Iris Tomas didn’t know each other growing up in the El Paso region, but they found a common path to achieve their lifelong dreams thanks to an innovative program sponsored by the Paso del Norte Health Foundation (Health Foundation).

The Health Foundation’s Paso del Norte Medical Student Loan program made their dreams come true. Established in partnership with the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) Paul L. Foster School of Medicine (PLFSOM), medical students could receive a $20,000 loan per year for four-years to attend TTUHSC PLFSOM. The full loan balance would be forgiven if they return to El Paso to establish a medical practice once their residency is completed.

Lopez, now Dr. Jennifer Perez following her marriage to Panfilo Perez, and Dr. Tomas are the first two doctors to complete residency and return to El Paso to set up their practices.

Medical Student Loan Program

“I’m so proud that the Health Foundation dedicated resources to support this program. It’s been a great way for us to support the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine and address the shortage of physicians in our region,” said Health Foundation CEO, Tracy J. Yellen. “The return of Dr. Perez and Dr. Tomas to El Paso is evidence that the approach is working. We are investing in local students and cultivating a pipeline of future physicians for our community.” For doctors Perez and Tomas, coming home to establish their medical practices was also about returning home to be closer to family and providing medical services in a traditionally under-served Hispanic region.

To date, 15 students from the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine have taken out loans through the Paso del Norte Medical Student Loan program. Of those students, 11 are either in residency or fellowship programs and will soon have the option of returning to the border and having their loans forgiven. If they choose not to return to El Paso, they pay off the loan with interest.

Dr. Perez set up her practice with Prestige Women’s Healthcare. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin and completed her residency in San Antonio. Dr. Tomas is with UMC Family Practice. She earned her undergraduate degree and completed her residency at Baylor University.

“Dr. Perez and Dr. Tomas are the truest examples of our mission of service,” said Dr. Richard Lange, president of TTUHSC El Paso and dean of the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine. “TTUHSC El Paso was created to bring quality, culturally competent care to a population that is vastly underserved. And now, with our alumni leading the way, we are fulfilling that promise. We could not be more proud.”

Home page photo is Dr. Jennifer Perez and photo above is Dr. Iris Tomas.