UTMB Alumnus Gives Back in Gratitude for Scholarship He Received
Dr. Edgar Cortes owes his successes in life to his family. Both his mother and father encouraged him to realize his dreams, whatever they were. “They gave me character and a strong work ethic,” he said.
Furthermore, Cortes appreciated the structure his father, also named Edgar, gave to him and his brother. “He taught us right from wrong, set limits and boundaries,” Cortes said. “I was fortunate to have him in my life.”
The love and admiration he has for his parents inspired Cortes and his wife Imelda to honor them by establishing the Edgar and Yolanda L. Cortes Scholarship in Medicine at UTMB, his alma mater. Each year the award recognizes an outstanding medical student who is committed to compassionate, patient-centered health care.
The Corteses also have recently established The Drs. Edgar and Imelda Cortes Scholarship in Medicine at the university, an accolade that will reward three exceptional medical students annually.
By all accounts, Cortes’ ambition and love for learning should have made his journey to medical school a smooth one. He skipped kindergarten and first grade since his parents had already taught him how to read and write in their Houston home. He went to summer school regularly during junior high and high school so that he completed both in just four years.
Cortes applied for medical school in 1965 after an impressive collegiate career at the University of Houston. He finished his premedical courses with a 3.87 grade point average, essentially doubling his course load each semester to complete his core curriculum in just two years—at the age of 17.
At that time, there were only three medical schools in Texas: Baylor College of Medicine, the University of Texas Southwestern and UTMB. Of the first two schools, one rejected Cortes’ application and the other placed him on a “call back” list.
UTMB not only welcomed him as a medical student but also offered him a four-year scholarship. “That four-year scholarship was very helpful,” he said. “It really threw me a lifeline.”
Cortes enjoyed his time at the university from the beginning, noticing the student body mirrored the state’s diversity. After graduating in 1969, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served his country for eight years. He was later stationed in Corpus Christi near the end of his naval career and fell in love with the city.
With a deep appreciation for music, Cortes enrolled in Corpus Christi’s Del Mar College to take piano lessons. There he met his future wife Imelda, who was on the community college’s faculty and holds a doctorate in piano performance from Indiana University. The couple has been married for 36 years.
Cortes enjoys a successful pediatric practice in the city and is medical director of the Driscoll Children’s Hospital emergency room. He also serves on UTMB’s Development Board and as co-chair of the Corpus Christi Regional Leadership Council for the university’s Working Wonders Campaign. Both volunteer organizations help open doors to potential benefactors.
The love for UTMB has grown within the Cortes family—their son, Dr. Edgar Richard Cortes, is a 1994 School of Medicine graduate who received a scholarship as well and currently works with his father. Cortes said he hopes to give more to his alma mater in the future. “I’ll be eternally grateful to UTMB for giving a 17-year-old a chance.”