Two SFA students accepted into Joint Admission Medical Program

NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Many obstacles can stand in the way of being admitted into medical school, but for two Stephen F. Austin State University students, the path to their dreams just got a little clearer.

Perla Tovar, junior biochemistry major from Lufkin, and Mckenna Dillard, junior biochemistry major from Stephenville, have been accepted into the Joint Admission Medical Program. This undergraduate pipeline program was created by the Texas Legislature in 2001 to close gaps between participation and success for Texans pursuing their dreams of becoming a doctor, according to the JAMP website,

Each year, JAMP accepts two students from SFA who are highly qualified but economically disadvantaged and want to pursue careers in medicine.

“As the JAMP faculty director at SFA, I am privileged to witness the life-changing moment when students become JAMP scholars,” said Dr. Erin Childress, director of SFA’s pre-health professions program. “The road to medical school is challenging, but JAMP provides incredible resources and support throughout the process. The program’s selection process, which includes two students from each participating university, significantly increases the chances of an SFA student being selected for JAMP compared to if they attended a larger university in Texas.”

Students participating in JAMP who meet eligibility requirements are guaranteed admission to a Texas medical school and awarded scholarships to support their educational journey.

Tovar’s aspirations are to become a successful researcher in genetic disorders, specifically cancer, and become an ophthalmologist.

“When I found out I was accepted into JAMP, I couldn’t believe it,” Tovar said. “It was a bittersweet and exciting moment for me. I give thanks to God because I asked Him that I may only be accepted if this was the right path for me.”

Tovar learned about JAMP during SFA Orientation when Childress reviewed the program and encouraged her to apply. Tovar graduated from high school in May 2023 and worried that her age could negatively impact her ability to get into JAMP. But thanks to expert guidance from her high school counselor, she had all the prerequisites necessary to apply to JAMP.

Dillard aims to go to the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine or the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School to become a cardiologist or study orthopedics.

“When I received the email that I had been accepted into JAMP, it was 10 minutes before my next class,” Dillard said. “I immediately had to call my entire family. I was super excited to have been given the opportunity to achieve my goal of becoming a doctor.”

To learn more about SFA’s pre-health professions program, visit

Cutline: Perla Tovar and Mckenna Dillard, junior biochemistry majors at Stephen F. Austin State University, were accepted into the Texas Joint Admission Medical Program.


Stephen F. Austin State University, the newest member of The University of Texas System, began a century ago as a teachers’ college in Texas’ oldest town, Nacogdoches. Today, it has grown into a regional institution comprising six colleges — business, education, fine arts, forestry and agriculture, liberal and applied arts, and sciences and mathematics. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, SFA enrolls approximately 11,000 students while providing the academic breadth of a state university with the personalized attention of a private school. The main campus encompasses 421 acres that include 37 academic facilities, nine residence halls, and 68 acres of recreational trails that wind through its six gardens. The university offers more than 80 bachelor’s degrees, more than 40 master’s degrees and four doctoral degrees covering more than 120 areas of study. Learn more at


By Alyssa Faykus, editorial services senior specialist at Stephen F. Austin State University