El Paso Electric Gift Helps Underserved El Pasoans Receive Medical Care

PLFSOM Medical Student Run Clinic group picture

El Paso Electric has a decades-long history of giving to the community. While the company has made $100,000, $500,000 and even $5 million gifts to TTUHSC El Paso, its smaller donations mean just as much.

The small community of Sparks in far east El Paso County is benefitting from a recent $2,000 gift from El Paso Electric to TTUHSC El Paso’s Medical Student Run Clinic. The clinic provides a wide variety of lifesaving medical services to the residents of Sparks, and thanks to grants and donations, all of the services are free of charge.

El Paso-area physicians volunteer at the twice-a-month clinic, managed completely by TTUHSC El Paso  students under the supervision of volunteer physicians. Medical students from the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine organize the clinic, recruit the physician volunteers and apply for grants.

Liliana Bonilla, a first-year medical student at TTUHSC El Paso, said being in charge of the clinic adds an important element to her usual volunteer work, and ties into her long-term goals in the medical field.

“What makes this clinic so special from the others is that we run it,” Bonilla said. “We get to see it grow. I’ve always wanted to help in the community. But as a volunteer at other places sometimes you just get in, get out, and that’s it. In this position, you get to see the whole process and how it works. My goal, when I’m on my own, is to have a clinic like this and volunteer my free time.”

Officials from El Paso Electric first learned about the clinic by talking to Sparks residents. As part of their mission to be involved in the community, leaders and employees of El Paso Electric often volunteer in Sparks. As they got to know the residents, they kept hearing about the Medical Student Run Clinic.

Those talks with residents inspired the donation to the clinic, said George De La Torre, El Paso Electric’s manager of external and public affairs.

“We found out about the clinic by going to events at the Sparks Community Center,” De La Torre said. “We heard such great things. Having the clinic in Sparks is really important because finding the time and money for transportation is always an issue. Hearing about it from the community is what really drew us to that clinic.”

Having a presence in their service area, which stretches from Hatch, New Mexico, all the way to Van Horn, Texas, is important to El Paso Electric and its employees, said Eddie Gutierrez, vice president of public, government and customer affairs.

“Our employees contribute thousands of hours in any given year to more than 100 organizations in New Mexico and Texas,” Gutierrez said. “Our commitment to being a strong community partner is foremost. Many of our focuses and priorities continue to be around education, particularly around STEM, but certainly expanding to other quality-of-life issues, including health.”

As for the clinic, Gutierrez said El Paso Electric saw that its donation could not only help the residents of Sparks, but also contribute to the education of TTUHSC El Paso’s medical students. The hope is that many of those students will stay in the El Paso area when they finish their educations, helping to improve access to quality medical care in the region.

Gutierrez, De La Torre and Karmen Mayorga, El Paso Electric communications specialist, recently toured the Medical Student Run Clinic and were impressed by the health services it is able to provide with a small budget.

“To meet the students and see the work they are doing in Sparks was truly inspiring,” Gutierrez said. “To see their dedication to the community—volunteering their time while also thriving in medical school—was impressive and humbling.”

Mariel Ochoa, one of the first-year medical students who led the tour of the clinic, said that though the volunteer hours can be long, she is happy to give back to the community she grew up in.

“I am from El Paso,” Ochoa said. “I live about five minutes away; I went to school with this community. So it was a way for me to give back to my community. I know there are so many social factors that come into play with their health, and I’m really interested in that. It’s really for the patients, why we’re all out here.”

The medical students also expressed their appreciation for two community health workers, Leticia Favela and Raquel Perez, who assist in running the clinic.

“They are our connection to the community, and our patients love them,” Bonilla said. “They work just as hard as we do to improve the health and well-being of the community of Sparks.”

With a community working together, from El Paso Electric to medical students, to the volunteer physicians, the residents of Sparks are grateful to receive much-needed medical care.