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Featured, from left: Hidalgo County Commissioner Precinct 1 David L. Fuentes, Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernández, MD, Chief Medical Compliance Officer, DHR Health, and Mario Lizcano, Administrator of Corporate Affairs, DHR Health, following the mayor’s third annual State of the City Address on Thursday, January 17, 2019.

Photograph Courtesy CITY OF PHARR

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Sports medicine institute in Pharr, Doctor of Audiology degree among UTRGV issues on agenda for UT System Board of Regents on Wednesday and Thursday, announces Rep. Canales

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Legislativemedia@aol.com

A proposed sports medicine institute in Pharr and the initial approval for a Doctor of Audiology degree program at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley are among the South Texas higher education items that will be considered by the UT System Board of Regents on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 and Thursday, May 23, 2019, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, has announced.

Canales, who also serves as Chair, House Committee on Transportation, has portions of Edinburg, Pharr, McAllen, the Delta Area communities, and other key cities in his House District 40.

The UT System Board of Regents meeting, which will take place in Austin, will occur a week before Dr. Guy Bailey, President, UTRGV, will deliver a “State of the University Address” on Thursday, March 30, 2019, as part of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce Public Affairs Luncheon at the Edinburg Conference Center, 118 Paseo Del Prado.

Bailey’s keynote presentation will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“This is truly an exciting time for UTRGV and the entire Rio Grande Valley,” Bailey said. “Our purpose is to be a university for the entire Valley with new programs and expanded opportunities for students, faculty, and staff. We are going to change significantly as an institution as we move forward.”

Under Bailey’s leadership, UTRGV has had successes in multiple areas: student retention, research expenditures and philanthropic gifts to the institution have increased dramatically.

In 2018, UTRGV was ranked the fourth-best university in Texas behind UT Austin, Rice and Texas A&M by BestColleges.com.

BestColleges.com is a website that partners with HigherEducation.com to provide students with direct connections to schools and programs suiting their educational goals. Its program rankings are intended to inform and guide prospective students toward institutions that provide a quality education and a meaningful learning experience at an affordable cost.

Overall, UTRGV awards the most undergraduate and graduate degrees to Hispanics in Texas. Bailey said this success is a direct result of the extraordinary work and commitment of UTRGV faculty and staff and the entire Rio Grande Valley community.

Bert Ogden Auto Group is serving as the Title Sponsor for this luncheon. For ticket and table prices, sponsor information, or to RSVP, please call 956/383-4974, or email tourism@edinburg.com by Monday, May 27, 2019.

The Public Affairs Luncheons are an initiative introduced in 2006, and since then, have covered popular topics with speakers that report on important community and legislative issues.

The mission of the Edinburg Chamber is to lead the effort in advancing commerce and the quality of life in Edinburg and the region. The organization fosters service, development, and growth by forging positive relationships, advocating volunteerism, and leadership development. For information about becoming a member of the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, they may be contacted at 956/383-4974 or email Zayda Pacheco at membership@edinburg.com.

Sports medicine institute to be considered for Pharr

Regarding the May 22-23, 2019 UT System regents meeting, the gathering also will serve to welcome the new four new regents to the nine-member governing board.

One of those new regents is from the Rio Grande Valley: Nolan Pérez, MD of Harlingen, who is CEO of Gastroenterology Consultants of South Texas.

“Dr. Pérez and his fellow regents will go behind closed doors (executive session) for the purpose of ‘discussion and appropriate action regarding request for authorization 1) to accept a conditional gift of an approximately 10.5 acre tract of land located near the northwest corner of I-69C and Sioux Road in Pharr, Hidalgo County, Texas, from the City of Pharr for future programmed campus expansion, including a sports medicine institute; and 2) to enter into a license agreement, as licensee, with the City of Pharr for use of a to-be-built aquatic center on a tract of land adjacent to the 10.5 acre tract of land,’” Canales reported.

There are seven exceptions that generally authorize closed meetings, also known as “executive sessions.” The exceptions include discussions involving: (1) purchase or lease of real property; (2) security measures; (3) receipt of gifts; (4) consultation with attorney; (5) personnel matters; (6) economic development; and (7) certain homeland security matters. The governing body must first convene in open session, identify which issues will be discussed in executive session, and cite the time and applicable exception. All final actions, decisions, or votes must be made in an open meeting.

(https://www.tml.org/legal_pdf/2006TXOpenMtngAct.pdf)

“During his State of the City Address on Thursday, January 17, 2019, Mayor Hernández, who also serves as Chief Medical Compliance Officer, DHR Health, made clear his continuing vision to expand higher education opportunities in his city,” added Canales.

Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernández, MD, a graduate of the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo public school system, the University of Texas-Pan American, and the University of Michigan medical school, on Thursday, January 17, 2019 spoke about that city’s dedication to education.

“Pharr continues to partner with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley on several major initiatives,” Hernández said. “Pharr fulfilled its commitment to contribute to the UTRGV School of Medicine, again presenting a $500,000 grant to UTRGV in June (2018).

“Plans are moving forward for the UTRGV Satellite Campus, which propose to include a Multi-Specialty Clinical Campus and a Sports Medicine Institute and Aquatic Center. These projects will enhance educational, health care and athletic opportunities, as well as contribute to having a significant economic impact in our area,” the mayor continued. “Thank you to UTRGV for your continued partnership as we work to advance educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, and especially, in Pharr.”

Hernández said that elected and appointed leaders in Pharr “also continue to enjoy strong partnerships with our local educational institutions, such as the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, South Texas College, RGV College, and the many public and private schools that call Pharr home.”

South Texas College Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence in Pharr

On Tuesday, September 18, 2018, Gov. Greg Abbott was in Pharr as part of the grand opening and building dedication of the South Texas College Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence in Pharr, representing the first phase of the $71 million state-of-the-art higher education system.

The South Texas College Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence in Pharr represents a partnership between STC, the City of Pharr, and the PSJA Independent School District.

Phase 1 is a 19,500 square-foot investment that consists of a training center, driving skills/skid pad, and shooting and driving simulation labs. The center also consists of 180 additional acres for future expansion. The master plan consists of 534,385 square feet of buildings, structures, and driving track to be completed in three phases over the next dozen years.

Once fully operational, the state-of-the-art higher education system, located at 3901 S. Cage Boulevard, will significantly expand South Texas’ capacity to provide educational opportunities for the public.

“In 2015, Rep. (Sergio) Muñoz, Jr. was the author of House Bill 1887, and Sen. (Juan “Chuy”) Hinojosa was the sponsor of that measure, which called for the creation of the STC Regional Center for Public Safety Excellence to provide education and training for law enforcement personnel in the Rio Grande Valley,” Hernández recalled. “That measure was supported by all of our Valley state lawmakers and signed into law by Gov. Abbott.”

In addition to Muñoz serving as the primary author of HB 1887, Canales, Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, and Rep. Ryan Guillén, D-Rio Grande City, were joint authors of that legislation.

The author is the legislator who files a bill and guides it through the legislative process (also called the primary author). The Senate allows multiple primary authors for each bill or resolution. The House of Representatives allows only one primary author, the House member whose signature appears on the original measure and on the copies filed with the chief clerk. Both chambers also have coauthors, and the house of representatives has joint authors.

Hinojosa served as the Senate sponsor of HB 1887.

The sponsor is the legislator who guides a bill through the legislative process after the bill has passed the originating chamber. The sponsor is a member of the opposite chamber of the one in which the bill was filed.

Doctor of Audiology degree program at UTRGV

In open session, regents also will consider approving preliminary authority for a Doctor of Audiology degree program at UTRGV.

According to the UT System’s regents agenda packet:

The Chancellor (James B. Milliken) concurs in the recommendation of the Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and the institutional president that the UT System Board of Regents approve preliminary authority for UT Rio Grande Valley to create a Doctor of Audiology degree program; and notification of the proposal to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

UT Rio Grande Valley requests approval to begin the planning process to offer a Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) degree program. Audiology is a health-related profession that requires a clinical doctorate and subsequent licensing and certification to provide patient services to persons who exhibit hearing loss, tinnitus, and/or disturbances in balance due to inner ear dysfunction.

The proposed Au.D. program will consist of 119 hours of course, laboratory, and clinical work. The four-year full-time curriculum will be based on the guidelines of the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

The number of students in the cohort will increase as the program develops with the initial expected cohort consisting of six students. At maturity, it is anticipated that the annual cohort will be approximately 12 students.

The Au.D. program will build on the strength of the existing speech-language disorders program and respond to the shortage of clinical audiologists in the Rio Grande Valley and Texas.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national employment rate of audiologists is expected to grow much faster than average. Between 2016-2026, an additional 3,000 audiologists will be needed to fill the demand nationwide, which represents a 20 percent increase in job openings.

Within the State of Texas, five Au.D. programs exist at UT Austin, UT Dallas, Lamar University, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, and the University of North Texas.

There are approximately 14,800 audiologists nationwide with a projected need of 17,800 audiologists by 2026. For an Au.D. program running at full capacity, approximately eight core faculty will be needed. Four of these faculty must possess a research doctorate (i.e., Ph.D.) in audiology as accreditation standards require that a majority of didactic classes be taught by audiologists with research doctorates.

The additional four faculty members will hold a professional doctorate (i.e., Au.D.) and teach classes related to professional and clinical practice and supervise practicum experiences. Once preliminary authority has been approved, UT Rio Grande Valley will submit the full degree program proposal for approval to the UT System Board of Regents and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Nolan Pérez, MD background

Pérez, one of the four new members on the UT System Board of Regents, grew up in the Rio Grande Valley and graduated from Port Isabel High School.

He is married to Sandy Pérez and they have two children: Nolan, age 12 and Natalie, age 10.

He is a member of the Texas Medical Association, American Medical Association, American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, and the American Gastroenterologic Association, and is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and the American College of Gastroenterology.

He has served as a member of the Texas Woman’s University Board of Regents since 2015, and as board chair since 2017.

He is a Trustee for Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District, having first been elected in 2010.

He also serves on the University of Texas Foundation, UT Chancellor’s Council Executive Committee, UT Austin Development Board, UT Rio Grande Valley Development Board Executive Committee, Holdsworth Center Governing Board, Humanities of Texas Board, Texas Lyceum Board of Directors, and Educate Texas Advisory Board.

Additionally, he is a member of the Philosophical Society of Texas, Texas Foundation for Innovative Communities, Lone Star National Bank Board, Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-Texas) Service Academy Nominations Board, and FIRST in Texas Foundation.

Pérez received a Bachelor of Arts from The University of Texas at Austin and a Medical Doctorate from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. He completed residency training in Internal Medicine at the Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen, and fellowship training in Gastroenterology at Wayne State University/Detroit Medical Center.

After medical school he served in the U.S. Navy as a Medical Corps Officer.

His medical practice, Gastroenterology Consultants of South Texas, PA, is located on Victoria Lane in Harlingen.

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DeAnna Garza contributed to this article. Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, who is the Chair of the House Committee on Transportation, represents House District 40 in Hidalgo County, which includes portions or all of Edinburg, Elsa, Faysville, La Blanca, Linn, Lópezville, McAllen, Pharr and Weslaco. He may be reached at his House District Office in Edinburg at (956) 383-0860 or at the Capitol at (512) 463-0426. 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).

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