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Dr. William De La Pena

The Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara School of Medicine just held commencement ceremonies for the first graduates of their new four-year program. Many may wonder why this would be considered news at all since most medical programs in the United States are four years. But this isn’t about a medical school in the United States, nor do they produce doctors like most schools in the United States produce.

UAG alumni and advisory board member, Dr. William De La Pena explains, “There is an acute shortage of doctors that are both bilingual and bicultural here in the U.S. Being able to speak a second language isn’t enough, so seeing how medicine is practiced in other countries is a valuable asset to our communities. We need more family practitioners with this cultural understanding.”

Dr. De La Pena graduated from UAG in 1975 and continued his education at the University of California, Irvine. He eventually opened De La Pena Eye Clinic in 1984, which has since become one of the largest ophthalmological practices in California. He has also been very active in education throughout his career, serving as a regent for the Uniformed Services University for Health Sciences at Bethesda, Maryland; and also for the University of California.

Watch a Dr. De La Pena share some of his thoughts here:

One of Dr. De La Pena’s main focuses, though, has been on helping to strengthen support in underserved bicultural communities in the U.S. The UAG International Program has produced over 15,000 U.S. medical doctors that have come back to practice in the United States.

”It took 3 years of intense negotiation between the leadership of the university and U.S. government agencies to be able to comply with all federal and state rules in order to get a 4-year program admitted. Now we have it, and it is significant that we can help students finish sooner and go back to the States to pass their board exams and begin practicing. With this change we can graduate 20% more doctors a year,” says De La Pena.

In December Dr. William De La Pena visited Guadalajara and gave the commencement speech to the first four-year graduating class of their International Program. They also named it after him as a way to recognize his invaluable contribution in helping make the four-year program a reality.

“I think it is a great thing to keep in touch with the university and stay loyal to it; I think it is very important for the university to have that connection to its students, and for the students feel that loyalty to the school. My two best friends graduated from the same medical school, and we see each other several times a year. In addition, I know of many U.S. graduates from the UAG that are making huge contributions to the healthcare of our US population. We need more doctors in the U.S. and our schools are not able to produce enough to cover our growing population and retiring M.D.’s.”

Click here to see more of Dr. William De La Pena discussing his own experience as a medical student at UAG.