HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — DHR Insitute for Research and Development is working with Valley schools’ Gear Up program for a new clinical research program.

Dr. Sohail Rao, the president, and CEO of DHR Health Institute for Research and Development said Hispanics in clinical research are extremely low and the program is a way to bring more awareness.

“A population that needs equal attention is high school students because in many cases they are the ones that are actually advising or are engaged in the conversation with their parents and elderly relatives in deciding as to what kind of treatment options they should be exploring,” said Dr. Rao.

He explained that the program is intensive and students will dedicate two weeks of their summer break to learning a specific topic.

“Each student will have a project, the project will be decided by working with us and it can be in a particular area of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or cancer. We have a list of different projects that we will be sharing with them. Based on their interest, they will actually pick one that they will be working on with us,” he said.

Kaylen Sauceda and Allison Alvarez, both tenth-grade students at Harlingen High School South, were selected for the program.

“It’s going to be like a really intense program, but I’m excited to see what they’re going to offer me,” said Sauceda.

“I do feel the pressure, but I think that I could fulfill what I need to fulfill, but I’m very excited,” said Alvarez.

The students have received some medical training while in high school and said they are ready for the commitment and gearing up for their future in healthcare.

“I would like to be a physical therapist to help people recover from their injuries,” said Alvarez.

“I’m thinking about pediatrician to working with kids. I feel like this would help me,” said Sauceda.

Dr. Rao said the program is offered at an undergraduate level and will include 200 students like Alvarez and Sauceda, from across the valley.

He explained that students will end the program by writing a manuscript that will be published.

Crystal Hernandez, the Gear Up facilitator at Harlingen High School South, said the program is a great opportunity for students.

“Going into the medical field, it’s one thing to read a book and maybe watch a video, but to actually get that in-depth hands-on experience is so important to them because it may be something that they turn around and realize maybe it’s too intense for me or maybe it’s exactly what I want to do,” said Hernandez.