University Partnership: Primary Care Pathways Student Clarence Sparks | College of Science
November 15, 2021

University Partnership: Primary Care Pathways Student Clarence Sparks

The University of North Texas College of Science is proud to partner with Midland College on the Primary Care Pathway Program, where students spend time at both Midland College and UNT to receive an accelerated degree in three years with a clear path to medical school ahead, essentially allowing students to complete eight years of school in seven. Clarence Sparks, a first generation and non-traditional student, is one of the first students to participate in this program, receiving his BA in Biology from the UNT College of Science, and he has big dreams of becoming a practicing physician after med school.

"Once I make it through residency, my passion lays in helping underserved people, both near and far," said Clarence. "I would love to work with people who are normally overlooked or unable to properly utilize the healthcare system in the US, as well as travel abroad to lend a hand to areas in need of assistance."

Clarence, a medical assistant for over a decade before starting the program, was initially taking prerequisite classes at Midland College with the plan of working his way through the Nursing program. Near the end of his penultimate class in Anatomy and Physiology I, he watched a presentation about the Primary Care Pathways Program that changed his mind about what he wanted to do.

"The program led to my ultimate goal of being a provider, while allowing me the opportunity to experience medical school," said Clarence. "I have wanted to become a provider of some sort since fairly early in my medical career and I was also curious as to how far I could be pushed and still succeed."

Clarence said the strongest part of the program was the assistance it gave to navigating the journey into medical school. "As a first generation college student, I had no idea how to apply to medical school, or what the steps up to that point would entail," he said.

The program starts with two years at Midland College that are heavily math and science focused. Participants must take no less than fifteen hours of classes per semester, and maintain both an overall GPA and science GPA of 3.5. The program requires only three years of undergraduate time and allows students to not have to take the MCAT.

Clarence said that coming to the University of North Texas after Midland meant adjusting to a new environment, including getting used to larger classes and discovering more to do both on campus and in Denton in general.

"There was some give and take with greater freedom plus more distractions. It was a great time to really learn to develop a school/life balance and for the cohort in the program to come together as a support unit both in and out of class," Clarence said. "The science classes are also a bit different as they become more specialized into individual fields and subjects. It is a time to really learn details of a subject more than foundational knowledge and broad concepts."

Hoping to specialize in primary care, Clarence's next step is residency. "The only clinical rotations I have done so far are in areas I went into TCOM wanting to practice, so I will have to see if the remaining rotations are great enough to change my increasing bias towards those specialties. I would love to stay in Texas for my residency, but I am willing to go to the best program possible, no matter where."

Clarence said he would absolutely recommend this program to anyone truly interested in becoming a physician, especially for first generation college students. "It provides structure and people who are able to help navigate the system and application process," he said. "The only cost is reduced options for classes and medical school choice. It is truly a one-of-a-kind opportunity that I spent many years believing was too good to be true."

To learn more about the Primary Care Pathway Program, visit: