This year, several surgical technology programs are celebrating 50-year milestones—a significant and exciting accomplishment. In our last newsletter, we learned the history behind the surgical technology program at Tarrant County College (TCC) and their plans to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year.

This month, we talked to St. Philip’s College, whose surgical technology program is also celebrating 50 years. Learn more in this Q&A from Jessica Garza, CST, surgical technology program director, and Raquel Farias, department chair.

Please tell us about your program, including some of its history.

St. Philip’s College is the only community college in the nation that is federally designated as a Historically Black College (HBC) and a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI). St. Philip’s College was founded in 1898 by the Episcopal Church as a sewing school for young black girls in the San Antonio area.

From its founding, through extreme financial challenges during the Great Depression, desegregation and the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, massive expansions in the 1970s, and into the present, St. Philip’s College has become a pillar in the community and often is referred to as “a point of pride in the community.” Over the last 120 years and with the shift from parochial school to public institution, St. Philip’s College has developed a culture that respects diversity, provides a nurturing and supportive environment for students, and guides students toward academic excellence, as well as development of marketable job skills.

St. Philip’s College’s surgical technology program is proudly celebrating its 50th anniversary. Today, the program has an annual enrollment of 25 students seeking an associate of applied science degree in surgical technology. The program has two full-time faculty and three adjunct faculty, all certified surgical technologists. The program utilizes 11 clinical sites annually and has two state-of-the-art mock surgical suites.

The surgical technology program first appeared in the 1968-1969 catalog under the degree of Operating Room Technician. At that time, the admission requirements were:

  1. Licensed vocational/practical nurse or its equivalent
  2. Applicant must be between the ages of 18 and 35 years
  3. Successfully complete a pre-entrance examination and all interviews

The program was a nine-month, two-semester theory and clinical program, offering instruction by St. Philip’s College in conjunction with Santa Rosa Medical Center. Partnerships with Santa Rosa Medical Center still exist today through clinical rotations.

Then and now: A photo of operating room technology students (left) from a 1970 St. Philip’s College catalog and a photo of its current surgical technology students at a recent event (right).

What changes has your program seen in its 50 years? What is on the horizon?

While the program has still has an application process, the applicant criteria attracts a much more diverse group of candidates. There are no age requirements or prior credentialing requirements like there were in 1968. In addition, students applying to our surgical technology program are interviewed by faculty and our selection is based on interview, application, essay, completed prerequisites and grade point average.

In the future, we hope to grow our program to having more than one cohort of students to award more degrees in surgical technology. In addition, we are beginning discussions on developing a new award in sterile processing in response to our community requests.

What is your program most proud of accomplishing in its 50 years?

We are most proud of our recent 10 year reaccreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). CAAHEP awards accreditation to surgical technology and surgical assisting programs upon the recommendation of the ARC/STSA. In addition, we are very proud of our most recent pass rate of 92%. One final accomplishment is that the program started a student club in the 2018-2019 academic year.

Is your program celebrating a milestone this year? ARC/STSA wants to hear about it! Please email ARC/STSA Director of Education Services, Christy Baily-Byers, at

Be sure to read more articles from the latest ARC/STSA eNewsletter: