Joel Torres, M.D., was a first-year medical student when the news came: He had been selected as a Long Presidential Scholar in the School of Medicine.
It was life changing for the man who had grown up spending summers in the fields as a migrant laborer to help keep food on the table. He was the first in his family to attend college, and by the time he received the Long scholarship, he had already earned a bachelor’s degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a master’s degree from Stanford University.
As a Long Presidential Scholar, he was awarded a full scholarship from Austin philanthropists Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long. The gift allowed him to focus on getting through medical school without the additional worry of the expense of his education, he said.
“I feel that saying ‘thank you’ isn’t enough to show appreciation to people as generous as the Longs,” said Dr. Torres, now an emergency medicine doctor in Edinburg, Texas. “They have given me a wonderful gift, not only financially, but also the gift of their trust that I honor today by being the best physician I can be.”
The Longs began supporting UT Health San Antonio in 1999, with annual scholarship gifts for 12 medical students from South Texas. Their scholarship provided full funding for each student to complete medical school, and resulted in more than $1 million invested in scholarship support in the early years of the program.
Then came a transformative $25 million gift in 2008. It created the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Scholarship Research and Teaching Fund endowment, which is held in the Office of the President. Each year, the endowment distributes scholarship funding that supports more than 50 students in medicine, nursing, physician assistant studies, and the M.D./Ph.D. program. It also gives annual support for medical research, and funds to establish new faculty chairs that help the university recruit and retain faculty.
That same year, the UT System Board of Regents honored the Longs by naming the university’s Joe R. & Teresa Lozano Long Campus.
Less than a decade later, the Longs stepped forward with an additional $25 million gift to UT Health San Antonio and the School of Medicine. When considered in its totality, the impact of the Longs’ giving to the university exceeds $61 million, and that impact will continue to grow, officials said.
On Feb. 14, the Board of Regents officially approved the naming of the School of Medicine as the Joe R. & Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine.
“Their gifts are remarkable for many reasons, but especially for the extraordinary impact they have already had on improving health care access and delivery in South Texas,” said UT System Chancellor William McRaven.
The latest gift established a $1 million distinguished chair endowment for the dean of the Long School of Medicine; a $4 million endowment to provide additional scholarships for students from throughout Texas who are studying to be physicians; and a $20 million President’s Endowment for Faculty Excellence in Medicine held in the Office of the President to support faculty recruitment for the Long School of Medicine.
The Longs met as teachers in Alice, Texas. They most enjoy interacting with young people and supporting their dreams of education. Teresa Lozano Long, Ed.D., and Joe R. Long, J.D., both earned their doctoral degrees from The University of Texas at Austin.
“Good health is a necessity in life,” Joe Long said. “Our goal is to empower generations of young people to enter health care and enhance the quality of life of our state.”
Dr. Torres said he wants to follow the example that the Longs set.
“They came from small towns, got an education, became successful and worked,” he said. “But they used all that to better the community. I want to be seen as a physician who cares for people and for the community as a whole.”
To date, the Longs have supported more than 290 scholarships to more than 115 students.
“The Longs’ gifts touch every new baby delivered, every sick child or elderly patient treated, every lifesaving surgery performed—every aspect of the daily medical practices of each of these young physicians—and their giving will do that and more for generations to come,” said UT Health San Antonio President William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP.
While the students are often profuse in their praise for the couple, the Longs never miss an opportunity to applaud the students.
Like Dr. Torres, many scholarship recipients are the first in their families to attend college, much less medical school, said Teresa Long.
“They prove that if you give them an opportunity, they will work,” she said. “They don’t come here to have fun.”
Joe Long added, “What we consider the real legacy are the students who will be educated as a result of these endowments. They will make a difference in the future of health care for generations to come.”
“The Long Scholarship has enabled a new generation of physician-scientists to continue the work of translating these basic science discoveries into treatments. With the molecular era in medicine opening the door for targeted treatments for many diseases, physician-scientists have never been more important to the advancement of health care.”
—Jeffrey Cooney, M.D./Ph.D. candidate
“The Longs are a substantial part of why I was able to advance my career in a way I never thought possible. I was a mother of two young children when I began my RN program, and their grant enabled me to focus on my family and my studies instead of stressing about extra income. Thanks to their generosity, I advanced to graduate school, and now I have the job of my dreams as a nurse practitioner in a rural community. They believed in me by their investment, and I get to give that gift back every day by working to provide excellent care to my patients. I’m eternally grateful.”
—Kirstin Furl, M.S.N., FNP, a nurse practitioner in Floresville, Texas
“Teresa and Joe’s impact through their contributions to students of UT Health San Antonio will resonate throughout the generations. I can proudly say that this power couple has positively shaped my life and career and, by extension, the lives of my patients and my future children.”
—Eithan Kotkowski, M.D./Ph.D. GS2 student
“The Longs’ generous scholarship supported me at a time when I needed it the most. It has allowed me the freedom to choose my path after graduation without the pressures of large student loans. I am grateful for their support and wish them well.”
—Benjamin William Rhames, 2014 graduate of the physician assistant program, now a PA in the UT Health San Antonio Department of Emergency Medicine