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UST Salutes First Female Graduate to Attend Medical School in 1960s

Dr. Blanca Azios '61University of St. Thomas’ first female graduate to attend medical school, and fourth UST graduate to do so, became a Board Certified Pediatrician with a thriving practice for 30 years in Southwest Houston. During this time she was elected as Chief of Pediatrics at Memorial SW Hospital for nine years, and was an Attending Physician at all the major hospitals at the Medical Center.

Then, Dr. Azios was wooed by Baylor College of Medicine to be the Founding Medical Director of a medical clinic for the indigent in the Sharpstown area. There she served for 10 years as Administrator, Clinician and Professor, training future physicians. Upon retiring from her “second career,” she reflected that she had fulfilled her vocation of becoming a full-time physician practicing for 40 years, serving a large private population, as well as giving back to her community by serving the indigent, with no regrets and much satisfaction.

Encouraged to be a Nun, Teacher or Nurse

Further reflection reminded Dr. Azios how even though she aspired to be a doctor from a very young age, many adults along the way, especially teachers, encouraged her first to be a nun, then a teacher, and of course, to be a nurse. Nevertheless, she persisted and was finally accepted as potential doctor-material once she arrived at UST. She was encouraged by Biology Professor, Fr. Joseph Meyers, CSB, as well as other professors there to go for it!

So, after four years of pre-med courses, known then as Biology major, she was accepted to University of Texas in Galveston (UTMB). Dr. Azios stated, “The professors there, as well as at most medical schools then, were extremely biased against female medical students, feeling that their only purpose there was to snag a doctor to marry. So, they were determined to weed us out. But some of us survived and put to rest the fear that we would only practice part-time and for a couple of years. I’m happy to see how much that has changed for current female medical students.”

Dr. Azios' Hispanic Roots

So how did this Hispanic, female, pre-med student from a very small university (with three strikes against her), make her dream come true?

She credits three primary factors: her strong Hispanic roots, her strong Catholic upbringing, and her excellent Catholic education for the foundation to conquer all obstacles she encountered.

Born and raised on the border in Laredo, Texas, Dr. Azios grew up bi-cultural, bi-lingual, and bi-proud. Her family believed that each generation should be better than the previous in every way, but especially in education. So, despite many financial constraints, her parents made sacrifices to send her and her brother, Henry (also a UST alumnus) to Catholic schools from pre-school to university.

Dr. Azios states that these sacrifices, as well as her own efforts of holding three part-time jobs while attending UST, not only made her dream of becoming a physician possible, but gave her a strong moral compass with which to live life spiritually. And as an approbation of her strong Hispanic roots, Dr. Azios was selected Hispanic Woman of the Year in 1996 by the Hispanic Women in Leadership of Houston.

Garland Pohl '60 with Dr. Blanca Azios '61Dr. Azios Returns to her Alma Mater

Recently, Dr. Azios visited UST campus, the first time in more than 50 years, at the encouragement of her classmate and friend, Garland Pohl ’60. The duo toured the new Center for Science and Health Professions Building, which is state-of-the-art and houses Biology, Chemistry and The Peavy School of Nursing. Dr. Azios was “immensely impressed with the awesome features available to current students.”

Dr. Azios’ great-niece, Amber Azios, an Art major, is currently a freshman at UST.

Pre-Med Today at UST

Today, pre-med students at UST enjoy higher than average interview and admissions rates at medical schools, and UST alumni are in every medical, dental and veterinary school in Texas. In 2019, 15 out of 19 students seeking to go to medical school were female.

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