Diana Moreno’s story with the Foster School of Medicine began long before she accepted an offer to become a medical student in her hometown. It began with her childhood dream of becoming a doctor – and a well-timed commute to high school.
Moreno was in elementary school when the Foster School of Medicine became a reality thanks to the El Paso community’s Infinity Campaign, a fundraising effort launched in 2005 to open a four-year medical school in El Paso.
El Pasoans Judy and Kirk Robison, who operate several restaurant franchises in El Paso, were among the many generous donors from our Borderplex community who supported the efforts and contributed to the Infinity Campaign. In 2009, as the Foster School of Medicine’s inaugural class received their white coats, the Robisons had a front-row seat to celebrate this new beginning for 40 aspiring physicians in our region.
Fast forward to 2012, when Moreno’s mother graduated from the Hunt School of Nursing and accepted a position at University Medical Center of El Paso near the TTUHSC El Paso campus. The new job meant her mom could drive her each day to Silva Health Magnet High School, across the street from TTUHSC El Paso.
“I remember looking at the medical school buildings and us talking about it,” Moreno said. “Those conversations 20 minutes to school and 20 minutes from school, empowered me to one day walk through the Foster School of Medicine’s doors and pursue my dream of becoming a doctor.”
Diana graduated from the University of Texas at El Paso in May 2021, bound for the Foster School of Medicine. Concerned about the cost of medical school, as most students are, she wondered how she would pay for the childhood dream she still carried with her.
The Robisons, themselves with continued dreams of improving our Borderplex, alleviated that concern with a surprise meeting and a promise to support Moreno with both a scholarship and guidance she would carry close to her heart for years to come.
“Kirk and I have always been passionate about investing in education and we have also learned the importance of our future health care heroes,” Judy said, recalling the moment Moreno walked into the room with her parents, only to see Judy and Kirk sitting there.
The joy Moreno felt as she was surprised with the scholarship was matched by the Robisons, who found themselves in a full-circle moment that day, from leading the efforts to open a medical school in our Borderplex to ensuring those who wanted to attend could.
Moreno also made a promise that day: She would work hard to turn the Robisons’ investment into a career focused on caring for Borderplex patients most in need, while inspiring other local students with dreams of becoming health care leaders in their hometown.
Celebrating the Season of Thanks
On Wednesday, Nov. 8, during TTUHSC El Paso’s Season of Thanks luncheon, Moreno, now a third-year medical student, had the opportunity to personally express her gratitude for the Robisons’ support of her childhood dream. The annual event to honor TTUHSC El Paso donors was made all the more special with the announcement of a new $250,000 gift from the Robisons to fund scholarships for Foster School of Medicine students. The gift will be matched by TTUHSC El Paso, for a total of $500,000 in scholarships.
The Robisons’ gift comes at a time when future physicians like Moreno are needed in our Borderplex region and throughout Texas and the United States. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts Hispanics will account for 25% of the U.S. population in 10 years. However, less than 6% of physicians in the U.S. identify as Hispanic. To fill that gap, TTUHSC El Paso is educating future Hispanic health care providers who are bilingual, thanks to required medical Spanish courses for medical students.
“Texas Tech Health El Paso has been the most innovative, philanthropic, economic driver that has happened to our Borderplex region,” Judy said. “Kirk and I are proud to be part of the university and its history. It’s our belief that education is key to an intelligent populace and an intelligent populace makes good decisions. So if we can be of help to anyone, anywhere, with a scholarship, that’s something special.”
Now Moreno isn’t just dreaming; she’s making the Robisons’ investment worth it. As she approaches her final year of medical school, she’s passionate about gaining valuable experience with patients while serving her community: She serves the community as part of the prestigious leadership team for the school’s Medical Student Run Clinic, which provides diagnostic, preventive and educational care to residents in Sparks, Texas, just outside El Paso city limits.
As Moreno follows her dreams, the Robisons haven’t stopped giving.
Coming from humble beginnings, neither Kirk nor Judy’s families were philanthropists – they worked hard just to provide the basics. Now, steadfast in growing their family business, Pizza Properties Inc. – which includes restaurant franchises of Peter Piper Pizza; Boss Tenders, Dogs & Custard; and Applebee’s – they have made it their mission to give back to our Borderplex.
In 2019, the Robisons, on behalf of their Peter Piper Pizza franchises, gave a $25,000 sponsorship donation to the Decade Scholarship Fund for medical students during the Foster School of Medicine’s 10th anniversary. Along with the longtime support for TTUHSC El Paso, the Robisons have helped lead and support the causes of organizations such as the Paso del Norte Community Foundation, YWCA El Paso Del Norte Region, Center Against Sexual and Family Violence, El Paso Symphony Orchestra, El Paso Pro Musica and El Paso Museum of Art Foundation.
“Our work reflects the spirit of community,” Judy Robison said.
Time capsule carries a message for the future
In addition to the Foster School of Medicine, TTUHSC El Paso is home to the Hunt School of Nursing, Hunt School of Dental Medicine and Francis Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. The latest point of pride on campus is the future Steve and Nancy Fox Cancer Center, which is scheduled for construction during 2024 to 2025.
The namesakes of the schools – Paul and Alejandra Foster; Woody and Gayle Hunt; and Rick and Ginger Francis – as well as the cancer center’s Steve and Nancy Fox, were honored at the Season of Thanks event with the presentation of a time capsule. The capsule contains photos and newspaper articles announcing the establishment of the schools and cancer center, and will be buried in a meaningful location at the cancer center. It will be opened years in the future, at a time still to be decided.
Season of Thanks served as a fitting way to mark TTUHSC El Paso’s 10-year anniversary, which has been celebrated with events on campus throughout 2023. Donors play a crucial role in TTUHSC El Paso’s mission of growing our own Borderplex doctors, nurses, dentists and researchers. In the past fiscal year, TTUHSC El Paso has awarded more than $2.2 million in scholarships to 427 students – nearly half of the university’s student population.
Like the life-changing connection between Moreno and the Robisons, donors bring vision and dream together.
The Season of Thanks event brought scholarship recipients together with donors and community leaders who provide the support that allows students to succeed, graduate on time and serve patients locally, just like Moreno plans to do.
“I was accepted into many of the medical schools I applied to, but I chose Texas Tech Health El Paso’s Foster School of Medicine because I wanted to make a difference in my community,” she said. “And because of the Robisons — and so many other members of the community who supported my dreams along the way — I’ll eventually be a practicing physician in the town I call home.”
To learn more about how TTUHSC El Paso is eliminating health care barriers and creating life-changing educational opportunities for Borderplex residents, visit ttuhscepimpact.org.