Featured, from left: Manish Singh, MD, Chief Executive Officer, DHR Health; McAllen City Commissioner Verónica Whitacre; Dr. Guy Bailey, President, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley; McAllen Mayor Jim Darling; John H. Krouse, MD, Executive Vice President for Health Affairs, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and Dean, UTRGV School of Medicine; McAllen City Commissioner Javier Villalobos; and Carlos Cárdenas, MD, Chairman, Board of Managers, DHR Health. This image was taken on Wednesday, March 13, 2019 during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the University of Texas Health Rio Grande Valley Biomedical Research Building on the DHR campus site in northeast McAllen.
Photograph By PAUL CHOUY
Thanks to area state and federal legislators, more than $1 billion flows into South Texas every two years through UT Rio Grande Valley and its School of Medicine, says UTRGV President Bailey
More than $1 billion in state and federal funds flow into the Rio Grande Valley through the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and its School of Medicine, according to UTRGV President Guy Bailey, with more significant growth in facilities and academic programs planned or underway.
“From the state, the appropriation is about $335 million for the biennium (two-years),” said Bailey. “For the university as a whole, counting all sources of revenue, including financial aid, Pell Grants, and all, our budget is a little more than $1 billion for the biennium. That includes the medical school and UTRGV.”
The Texas Legislature in May 2019 approved a two-year state budget, which includes money for UTRGV and its School of Medicine, funding that began on September 1, 2019, and runs through August 30, 2021.
Bailey announced those financial figures, and other gains from the 86th Texas Legislature for UTRGV and its School of Medicine, during his State of the University Address, hosted by the Edinburg Chamber of Commerce, on Thursday, May 30, 2019 at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance.
The Texas Legislature, which meets in the Texas Capitol in Austin, conducted its 140-day regular session from Tuesday, January 8, 2019 through Monday, May 27, 2019.
“We had a significant increase in funding overall for the university – about $21 million – $22 million. About $12 million of that is for the medical school, another almost $10 million for the general academic,” Bailey said of the state funding increases. “We are very pleased, it was a very nice session. Our legislative delegation (in the Texas Legislature) worked very hard for that. They went all-out. We’re deeply appreciative.”
At the Texas Capitol, the Valley’s state legislative delegation is, in alphabetical order: Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Rep. Alex Domínguez, D-Brownsville; Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen; Rep. Ryan Guillén, D-Rio Grande City; Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya; Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville; Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, D-Brownsville; Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco; Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission; and Sen. Judith Zaffarini, D-Laredo.
The four-county Valley is represented in Washington, D.C. by, in alphabetical order: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Congressman Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo; Congressman Vicente González, D-McAllen; Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas; and Congressman Filemón Vela, D-Brownsville.
UTRGV and its School of Medicine was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as a result of Senate Bill 24, whose primary author was Hinojosa, and whose primary sponsor in the House of Representatives was Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville.
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.
With Oliveira serving as the primary sponsor, Canales, Guerra, Longoria, Rep. J.M. Lozano, R-Kingsville, Martínez, and Muñoz were sponsors of SB 24.
A 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.
DHR Health’s Functioning Level I Trauma Center: “It’s huge,” Bailey said
Medical education at UTRGV’s School of Medicine and Allied Health programs at UTRGV are big parts of those advances, Bailey added, noting that DHR Health continues to play a key part in those economic and educational improvements for the region.
DHR Health is the flagship teaching hospital for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) School of Medicine, and encompasses a general acute hospital with the only dedicated women’s hospital South of San Antonio, a rehabilitation hospital, a behavioral hospital, more than 60 clinics Valley wide, advanced cancer services, the only transplant program in the Rio Grande Valley – and the only functioning 24/7 Level 1 Trauma Center south of San Antonio.
“It’s huge,” Bailey says about DHR’s functioning Level I Trauma Center. “It provides some training that we couldn’t do any other way. The thing about a Level 1 Trauma Center is there is a research component to it and that is really vital to the university because that is what we will do.”
As of Wednesday, May 1, 2019, DHR Health has been functioning as a Level I Trauma Center, offering the community a specialized, comprehensive team to care for patients who suffer traumatic injuries from causes such as motor vehicle crashes, gunshot wounds, crush injuries and falls. The emergency department at DHR Health is the primary entry point for most patients. They are evaluated and stabilized in its designated trauma area before getting transferred to a different area of the hospital to receive additional medical care.
The Texas Department of Health and Human Services provides the designation of trauma centers.
“DHR Health has been at the forefront of trauma care in the Rio Grande Valley for many years now. Functioning as a Level 1 Trauma Center has now raised the standard of trauma care,” said Dr. Raúl Barreda, Trauma Medical Director at DHR Health. “The coordination of care from our team allows us to provide the highest level of trauma care available at a moment’s notice.”
These centers are verified by the American College of Surgeons (ACS) to ensure they meet essential criteria established by their Committee on Trauma. The American College of Surgeons verification provides confirmation that a trauma center is providing the highest quality of trauma care. DHR Health is in preparation for an ACS visit for verification as a Level 1 Trauma Center.
“For too many years, thousands of patients have had to be transferred outside of the Rio Grande Valley if they were involved in a major trauma to receive potentially life-saving care. Patients have to be transferred more than 230 miles away to either San Antonio or more than 340 miles to Houston,” said Manish Singh, MD, Chief Executive Officer, DHR Health. “This is time lost when it comes to saving your family member or friend, which is why DHR Health is happy to announce that we are now functioning as a Level I Trauma Center.”
Singh described the achievement an “amazing milestone, not just for DHR Health, but the entire Rio Grande Valley and South Texas.”
“Folks at DHR Health, thank you for everything you have done.”
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 more than 1,400 nurses and 600 physicians providing care in 70 specialties and sub-specialties.
“Folks at DHR Health, thank you for every thing you have done in making that happen. It’s been an important partnership,” Bailey said. ”One of the most successful things that we have done, the significance of that medical school can’t be overestimated. The impact that it will have is enormous.”
Bailey said the formation of UTRGV and the creation of its School of Medicine was a milestone event for Deep South Texas.
“When UTRGV was formed, there were two big things that were going to come out of this. We were going to get a medical school, which had first been proposed in legislation in 1947 – before I was born. That’s a long time ago. So we were very, very fortunate to get that,” Bailey said. “The second thing is we would be eligible for funding from the Permanent University Fund.”
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.
“If you look back at what’s happened over the last five years, since 2014, it’s really quite remarkable. Do you know that across the Valley, we’ve built seven buildings? I want you to think about that. In five years, universities don’t do that. There’s three on our campus in Edinburg including the medical school building and there’s a fourth going up right next to that,” he said. “Think about that. Seven buildings.
“If you look at those seven buildings, they’re distributed across the Valley. There’s a couple in Brownsville, there’s a research center in Boca Chica (Stargate), in Port Isabel you’ll find our Coastal Studies program,” Bailey continued. “We try very hard to be a unifying force in the Valley, and to be the Valley’s university.”
UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.
“The most recent one, which we leased in partnership was our primary hospital partner, DHR Health, is right across the street over here, across Dove Avenue in McAllen. You should go and see it. It is a major research building, the most sophisticated research building in South Texas,” the UTRGV president continued. “We are now occupying that. We will be doing research in cancer immunology. How important is that? You know that cervical cancer rates in the Valley are among the highest in the United States, and the mortality rates are among the greatest. What happens in that cervical cancer research center will make an impact on the Valley.”
Leaders with UTRGV, 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 building, located at 5300 N. L St. (near the intersection of Jackson Road and Dove Avenue), provides 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 of McAllen donated the land, and the building – located on DHR Health’s South Campus – is leased to UTRGV by DHR Health and DHR Real Estate Management, L.L.C.
The new facility houses 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 is 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.”
Full range of allied health doctorates on the way
Bailey said UTRGV and its School of Medicine continue to build health related and medical programs.
“Most of our professional doctorates such as physical therapy, which is before the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board right now, would produce people with doctorates in physical therapy to be physical therapists in the Valley, in hospitals, in various practices,” he said. “We have a podiatry doctorate and an audiology doctorate which have been approved by the UT System Board of Regents and will go before the Coordinating Board soon. Within the next four years or so, we would like to have a full range of allied health doctorates available.”
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), located in Austin, is a state agency that oversees all public post-secondary education in the state.
The board determines which Texas public four-year universities are permitted to start or continue degree programs. The board also evaluates degrees from other states and other nations for use in Texas. However, operations of the various universities or systems are the responsibility of each university or system board of regents.
The mission of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is to provide leadership and coordination for the Texas higher education system and to promote access, affordability, quality, success, and cost efficiency, resulting in a globally competitive workforce that positions Texas as an international leader.
According to the UTRGV website, the university currently offers the following doctoral programs:
In addition, UTRGV provides the following cooperative doctoral programs:
Reannon C. Ramos 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).