‘Featured: Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, on Wednesday, October 26, 2016, at the DHR Health campus on East Dove Avenue in McAllen, holds up an architectural rendering of the University of Texas Health Rio Grande Valley Biomedical Research building, which held its official ribbon-cutting on Wednesday, March 13, 2019.
Photograph By PAUL CHOUY
University of Texas Health Rio Grande Valley Biomedical Research building, built in partnership with DHR Health and City of McAllen, will help come up with treatments – and possibly cures – for illnesses and diseases that affect South Texans
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, along with its teaching affiliate DHR Health and the City of McAllen, on Wednesday, March 13, 2019, celebrated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony the landmark University of Texas Health Rio Grande Valley Biomedical Research building, which will help come up with treatments – and possible cures – for illnesses and diseases that affect South Texans.
The UT Health RGV Biomedical Research building, which is located on DHR Health’s south campus along E. Dove Road in McAllen – designed by The Warren Group of McAllen and Cantú Construction of McAllen – is a 83,020 gross-square feet, two story building, with its estimated value of $32 million to $34 million.
The formal grand opening of the facility came about two-and-a-half years after its groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday, October 26, 2016.
In general, medical treatment is the management and care of a patient to combat disease or disorder.
Medical treatments include using prescription medications, or use of a non-prescription drug at prescription strength; using wound closing devices such as surgical glue, sutures, and staples; using any devices with rigid stays or other systems designed to immobilize parts of the body; administration of oxygen to treat injury or illness.
A cure is a substance or procedure that ends a medical condition, such as a medication, a surgical operation, a change in lifestyle or even a philosophical mindset that helps end a person’s sufferings; or the state of being healed, or cured. A remission is a temporary end to the medical signs and symptoms of an incurable disease.
The building, located at 5300 N. L St. (near the intersection of Jackson Road and Dove Avenue), will provide laboratory, classroom and collaborative space for investigators working in the areas of cancer, diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders, and other areas of research important to the Rio Grande Valley community.
The city donated the land, and the building – located on DHR Health’s South Campus – will be leased to UTRGV by DHR Health and DHR Real Estate Management, L.L.C.
The new facility will house faculty, staff, post-doctoral fellows, and students working in 16 different research modules, featuring researchers from the departments of Neuroscience, Human Genetics, Immunology and Microbiology, and Molecular Science. It also will be the home of the School of Medicine’s new cancer immunology institute.
“We are so proud to have the UTRGV Biomedical Research facility right here in McAllen, as we are proud partners in developing the medical school, the students and the researchers in our community that will benefit so much from the work that will be undertaken in the building,” said McAllen Mayor Jim Darling. “We are both working toward the health and welfare of our citizens, for creating improved lives and bright and hopeful futures. As the school grows and succeeds, so will our community.”
Many of the leaders in attendance for the ribbon-cutting ceremony were among the dignitaries who participated in the building’s groundbreaking on Wednesday, October 26, 2016.
Beneficial impact on Valley’s quality of life
At both the October 2016 groundbreaking event and the March 2019 ribbon-cutting ceremony, officials emphasized the beneficial impact of the UTRGV Biomedical Research building on the quality of life for deep South Texas.
In general, quality of life is defined as the standard of health, comfort, and happiness experienced by an individual or group.
During the October 2016 groundbreaking for the complex, Guy Bailey, Ph.D., President, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, the UT Health RGV Biomedical Research building “will will help bring the university one step closer to one of its main goals – achieving Emerging Research University (ERU) status.”
Bailey described the project as “a collaborative effort in which UTRGV will lease the facility from Doctors Hospital at Renaissance Health System (which built it) and the City of McAllen (which donated the land for the project). The approximately 84,000-square-foot building is designed to provide UTRGV and its School of Medicine with vital space for medical research, as well as for educational and clinical uses.”
The UT Health RGV Biomedical Research building will have enormous influence over the state of health care for deep South Texas, Bailey said.
‘What research does is it provides cures. It provides information about how disease starts, what is the genetics of a disease. When you understand that, you begin to understand research,” he explained, adding that the UT Health RGV Biomedical Research building is the type of asset that “attracts researchers, and the promise of this building being able to fill it with top researchers. It will have a ripple effect that we will all be feeling for years to come.”
In addition, the amount of money pumped into the Valley economy, in about a generation (20 to 25 years), will surpass $1 billion, he predicted.
“This building will have a greater economic impact than anything we have built or will build in the next few years, Each dollar of research expenditures has about a 3-to-1 economic impact. We expect this building, when up and running, to generate about $15 million in direct research expenditures a year,” Bailey said. “What is the economic impact of that? $45 million a year. Think about that over 20 years. This is a billion-dollar investment in the Rio Grande Valley, in the City of McAllen and in our future as citizens in the Valley.”
Carlos J. Cárdenas: UT Health RGV Biomedical building a symbol of cooperation
Chairman of the Board, DHR Health, a co-founder of the hospital and one of the more visible faces of the DHR Health, said the UT Health RGV Biomedical Research at DHR will address the need to come up with information and solutions to key medical issues that specifically affect Hispanics.
“If you look in the clinical trials and the things that have been studied, you won’t find a lot of trials that have been done of the Mexican American population,” he said. “That, too, is going to change.”
A clinical trial is a research study in which volunteers receive investigational treatments under the supervision of a physician and other research professionals. These treatments are developed by pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies who select qualified physicians, also known as investigators, to conduct clinical trials to determine the benefits of investigational drugs.
DHR Health is a physician-owned health system and the only locally owned and operated hospital left in Hidalgo and Cameron counties. Anchored in southwest Edinburg, with a growing presence in neighboring McAllen, DHR Health offers some of the most comprehensive medical care on the U.S. southern border, with over 1,400 nurses and 700 physicians providing care in 70 specialties and sub-specialties.
Additionally, DHR Health is the flagship teaching hospital for the UTRGV School of Medicine, and encompasses a general acute hospital with a 24/7 Level III Trauma Facility the only dedicated women’s hospital South of San Antonio, a rehabilitation hospital, a behavioral hospital, over 60 clinics Valleywide, advanced cancer services, and the only transplant program in the Rio Grande Valley, to name a few.
Cárdenas said the UT Health RGV Biomedical building is a symbol of cooperation, “as many of the other things we have ventured to do, by partnering with our community in order to build a first-class medical center and research facility.
“This community fought for decades, as I mentioned, to bring the medical school here, because we need to train the next generation of physicians,” Cárdenas recalled how for generations, South Texans have sought a full-fledged medical school. “It was important that we do this because I am the average age of physicians in South Texas, and I need somebody to care of me. So, it is important that we get them trained quickly.
Finally, after the passage of a Senate Bill 24 in 2013 by Hinojosa and sponsored by Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville – and supported by the Valley state legislative delegation – the UTRGV School of Medicine was created by the Texas Legislature.
Sen. Hinojosa: “By working together, we can accomplish a lot.”
“This is an exciting day. I want to thank the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, President Guy Bailey, who has done an outstanding job,” Hinojosa said. “I know that we worked very closely with DHR Health and its leadership, and the public officials. What’s really amazing is that this is just another exciting day in the process of continuing the growth of our medical school, providing better health care for our communities and our families.”
The Senate District 20 legislator noted that the UT Health RGV Biomedical Research building is powerful proof “how we work together as a team, how we manage different situations and events, and sometimes problems that come up.
“By working together, we can accomplish a lot,” Hinojosa added. “For us, we are family, we are community, and I want to thank all of our leadership, our mayor Jim Darling for working with UTRGV. President Guy Bailey – when we first met – we started discussing having a special administration building, we got something even better: a medical research facility, which goes hand-in-hand with the medical school.”
Cárdenas detailed other key advantages of the UT Health RGV Biomedical Research building.
“This new state-of-the-art research institute will allow our new medical school to attract the highest caliber of researchers and instructors to help us train our medical students and our residents,” Cárdenas continued. “It will also foster a biomedical research industry that will create high-paying jobs and transform this community, and it is happening almost every week, as we interview those individuals who will come to work in this new facility, and in the programs we have helped to build.”
Biomedical research is the area of science devoted to the study of the processes of life, the prevention and treatment of disease, and the genetic and environmental factors related to disease and health.
“We want our students to train with the best and to be on the cutting-edge of medical research and technology. This community deserves to have a medical infrastructure that will rival the hospitals in Dallas, San Antonio and Houston. It takes money and it takes an investment, and a leap of faith from the community and the state to make these things happen,” Cárdenas said, emphasizing, “That is why Doctors Hospital at Renaissance has been so committed to this project.”
Biomedical technology is a broad term that combines engineering and technology to solve biological or medical problems involving humans, especially the design and use of medical equipment used to diagnose and treat various diseases. Biomedical technology can also be broken down into smaller sub-fields, like biomedical informatics, engineering, science and research.
Also according to UTRGV officials, the 83,032 square-foot facility includes:
• 16 research labs and support spaces.
• Two classrooms.
• Three collaboration/meeting rooms.
• Two small conference rooms.
• One large conference room.
• 40 private office and administrative support spaces.
• A nursing mothers’ suite.
• Common areas.
The nearly 84,000-square-foot facility was made possible by a unique public-private partnership between UTRGV, DHR Health and the City of McAllen. The building was built by DHR Health and DHR Real Estate Management, L.L.C., on land made available by the City of McAllen, and leased to UTRGV. The private-public leasing agreement was approved by The University of Texas System Board of Regents in September 2016.
“It’s all three of us coming together for a common purpose, making things happen,” Bailey said.
The facility complements the existing unique architectural vocabulary of the DHR campus. It was constructed using a concrete structural floor and steel frame with metal stud backup, and glass, stucco and split-face CMU veneer. The exterior is surrounded with landscaping around a dedicated parking lot.
UTRGV School of Medicine in midst of expanding
Robert Armor Forse, M.D., Chief Academic Officer, DHR Health, who led planning efforts for the building, said it fulfills the School of Medicine’s commitment to the community to provide cutting-edge, state-of-the-art healthcare and to produce research that doesn’t “end up in a drawer.”
“Research is just research until it is translated into clinical care, and that is what we want to happen here,” Forse said. “We want our doctors, students and residents to work with scientists so we can translate this research to the healthcare of this community. There are devastating diseases here in a community that has been underserved in so many ways. Today is a step forward in changing that.”
The new facility is a welcome addition, because the School of Medicine is in the midst of expanding its basic science and translational research programs and is about to start its clinical research program, said Dr. Andrew Tsin, UTRGV School of Medicine Associate Dean for Research.
“In order for us to continue to develop our research program at the School of Medicine, we need additional laboratory space,” Tsin said. “There’s a lot of things we couldn’t have done because of the limitation of space and facility, and we hope this will be the beginning of a large expansion of research in the School of Medicine.”
Future plans for the building include adding examination rooms and patient sample rooms for the School of Medicine’s clinical research endeavors, Tsin said.
Tsin said the future expansion will allow researchers to take their findings in laboratories into the clinical setting to see if some of the new discoveries are safe and will be applicable and effective in developing interventions.
“We are all very excited about being able to expand our research enterprise and facility and, particularly, the first that is close to a major hospital, so clinicians can now collaborate with research scientists,” Tsin said. “Our residents and medical students can go between the hospital and research labs.”
Darling praised DHR Health’s commitment to providing residencies, which he said are necessary for medical schools to be established and flourish. He also touted the economic growth the research facility will bring to the area.
“In San Antonio about 40 years ago, they started a research program that has brought billions and billions of dollars to the city, and it started with one building,” Darling said. “This is the one building that is going to start it in the Rio Grande Valley.”
“This new facility allows us to continue our work together to build an academic health center, a place where the next generation of healthcare professionals and scientists train, but as in Dallas, and San Antonio and Houston, the place where medical breakthroughs happen and where patients receive the world’s best care,” said Dr. John H. Krouse, Executive Vice President for Health Affairs at UTRGV and Dean of the School of Medicine.
An academic health center is more than a regular hospital. An academic health center: Provides patients and the community with health care for everyday needs and the most specialized services for complex diseases, illnesses and injuries. Offers unique care not available anywhere else in the region.
Dreams can become reality, Cárdenas pointed out.
“It’s amazing what you can do when you come together as a community, and you put up from your community, and you put up from the organizations that build your community, and you have the visionary leadership that we have had in Austin,” he said. “Our community leaders who dreamt three generations ago that they could build a medical school in South Texas, and the legislative reality that occurred. With the vision of the university of Texas, the vision of local leaders and our elected leaders, that has come to fruition.”
He said the Valley deserved no less than “world-class health care,” which is what is available in the medical research complexes in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio.
“I have sat and stood before you before and told you what our vision was for the Rio Grande Valley, and how we could transform the area in which we live, that 1.4 million people should not be denied the level of health care that is available to other metropolitan areas of similar size,” Cárdenas said. “All of those seem to be north of the Nueces River. Well, that changes today, ladies and gentlemen.”
Jennifer Berghom contributed to this article. For more information, please contact Roberto Haddad, Vice President and Counsel for Government Affairs and Policy at DHR Health, or Jesse Ozuna, Government Affairs Officer at DHR Health, at 956/362-7165. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories which affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com)