UT System Moving Forward On Medical School In Rio Grande Valley

UT System officials have started the nitty gritty work of turning an idea for a medical school in the Valley into an actual plan for one, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

Seven months after the Legislature authorized the UT System to establish a medical school in Cameron County, Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs Kenneth Shine has begun looking into what exactly it would take — and how much it would cost.


The tentative plan is to develop the Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen into a complete medical school. One of the plan’s biggest sponsors, State Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, told the San Antonio Express-News in May that it would cost at least $100 million.

The Valley is one of the fastest-growing parts of the state, with a large Hispanic population, and yet it faces a shortage of doctors. In 2002 the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board found 57 doctors per 100,000 residents, compared with 70 per 100,000 residents statewide.

UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, a practicing transplant surgeon, is a proponent of sending more resources to the Valley. He grew up in Laredo and has deep ties to the medical and philanthropic communities in South Texas.

UT Austin President Bill Powers also has supported plans for medical and law schools in the Valley.

“We’ve got to be out in front on this,” Powers said at meeting of the Board of Regents in December. “South Texas needs a great campus, at some point a medical school and a law school.”

Yet while the medical school appears to be inching closer to reality, no plans for a law school have advanced.

When asked about it, Cigarroa told the Statesman, “I’ve got my hands full for now.”



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