First Generation University Student Headed to Med School; Plans to Practice in Sweetwater


“I want to be the doctor anyone can come to, and, because Spanish is my first language, people can talk to me who are not entirely comfortable speaking English,” said Leila Rubio, a soon-to-be graduate of Hardin-Simmons University.

Earning a Bachelor of Science in biology with a biochemistry minor, Rubio is one of 269 HSU students who will graduate Saturday, May 10, 2014.

Dr. Andrea Jensen, HSU associate professor of biology and head of the department, characterized Rubio as a tireless worker and an extremely caring person.

“She always has a positive attitude and has been a tireless student worker for the biology department for the past two years,” said Jensen. “Leila often can be found assisting other students with learning their course material, which shows a dedication to her learning and to helping others.”

Rubio and her brother Victor, a 2012 HSU graduate, are the first in their family to earn university degrees, proud accomplishments for both of them. However, there is another family first equally revered by Rubio -- she and her siblings are the first in her family to be born as Americans.

While gratified by her U.S. citizenship, she is deeply connected and equally proud of her family roots in Hidalgo, Mexico, a place she loves visiting despite the 29-hour bus ride to see her extended family.

Graduating first in her class from Sweetwater High School, Rubio was awarded HSU’s substantial Presidents Scholarship. Numerous endowed scholarships from the university and several significant outside scholarships enabled her to complete her education. Plus, because she was able to transfer a sizable number of dual-credit hours and manage heavy academic loads, Rubio has been able to earn a bachelor’s degree in a reduced amount of time.

“When I first came to HSU, I was closed off to studying medicine because it would have taken such a long time,” said Rubio, “but coming to a small school helped me to get a focus on my career choice. My professors took the time to walk me through different scenarios and career goals and outcomes.”

Only about 10 to 12 students per year are admitted to the medical school Rubio has chosen to attend after her graduation from HSU. Learning of the accelerated family practice program at Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, Lubbock, coupled with the ability to graduate from HSU in a period shorter than four years, helped to convince her that medical school was the right choice.

She is especially grateful for the guidance of her professors, in particular Jensen and senior professor of chemistry Dr. Richard Garner.

“Dr. Garner gave me suggestions of medical fields and helped me to keep my mind open. As my adviser, Dr. Jensen took the time to coach me regarding the things I needed to accomplish and on what timeline. There is no doubt that God’s hand was there for me and opened the door,” said Rubio.

Rubio’s devotion to her faith is evidenced by her dedication to the Holy Spirit Catholic Parish in Sweetwater where she teaches a kindergarten class on Sunday mornings and an 11th-grade high school class on Wednesday evenings. She says she is also thankful that she has already found a church family in Lubbock.

While at HSU Rubio commuted from Sweetwater to Abilene Monday through Friday and believes that helped to quickly mature her.

“I had to wake up earlier than most university students to get to classes on time. That 45 minutes to an hour drive each way gave me time for self-reflection and time to recognize how much I love my hometown,” said Rubio. “My community of church, family, and friends draws me back home, and that’s why I want to eventually practice in Sweetwater.”

Rubio has already been shadowing a family doctor there and has been talking with Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital to help finance some of her medical school costs.

“There is such a need for a family practice doctor in Sweetwater and many of our physicians will be retiring in about 10 years,” said Rubio, pointing out that it will be another six years before she completes medical school and a residency that will most likely be in the Texas Panhandle or the Permian Basin.

“Sweetwater is so close to Lubbock and many patients there are often referred to Lubbock health care facilities, so it is all working to be the perfect area for me -- to go to school in Lubbock and later to have my practice in Sweetwater,” she said.

Rubio believes her Spanish skills will be a crucial asset to her practice.

“Imagine not being comfortable with English and having to describe your symptoms in another language you are not as familiar with. I will be their doctor,” said Rubio.

“She is one of the most caring people I know,” said Jensen. “I am proud of her achievements and know she will have much success in her future.”

Rubio said she feels her faith and her life goals are now merging.

“In medicine, I can do God’s work in my patients. By bringing hope to people, it can be my way of bringing God to people.”




  • A Princeton Review Best Western College
  • Council for Christian Colleges & Universities  
  • Center for Student Opportunity: Promoting a College-Bound Culture
  • US News Best Colleges
  • Military Friendly
  • college_of_christian_distinction_badge20172018
  • College Choice Best Christian Colleges and University
  • University and College Accountability Network