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Alonzo Cantú selected by Gov. Abbott to serve on Special Advisory Council that will help guide the safe and strategic restarting of Texas economy

Featured, from left: Achal Patel, MD, Brain and Spine Neurosurgery, DHR Health; Robert David Martínez, MD, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Physician Executive, DHR Health; Juan Padilla, MD, Chief of Neuroscience, DHR Health; and Alonzo Cantú, Member, Board of Managers, DHR Health. This image was taken during the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony of the DHR Health Aquatic Therapy Institute, located at 2001 South Cynthia Street, Suite E in McAllen, on Thursday, September 26, 2019.

Photograph Courtesy DHR HEALTH

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Alonzo Cantú selected by Gov. Abbott to serve on Special Advisory Council that will help guide the safe and strategic restarting of Texas economy

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
[email protected]

Alonzo Cantú of McAllen, whose far-reaching positive influence on the Valley’s economy, health care, education,  and quality-of-life is felt on a large scale, on Friday, April 17, 2020, was selected by Gov. Greg Abbott as one of 39 Texans to serve on a Special Advisory Council which will share innovative ideas to help businesses strategically restart while containing the spread of COVID-19.

That blue-ribbon committee is one of five groups that make up Abbott’s Strike Force to Open Texas, a team of nationally recognized medical experts and private and public leaders who will advise the governor on safely and strategically reopening the state of Texas.

TheStrike Force to Open Texas features the following groups:

• Special Advisory Council;
• Economic Revitalization;
• Health Care;
• Education; and
• Fiscal Accountability and Federal Liaison.

The Special Advisory Council also will help develop statewide standards and appropriate time frames for bringing back key elements of the state’s economy while prioritizing the health and safety of all Texans.

“Mr. Cantú’s business acumen (the ability to make good judgments and quick decisions) is unparalleled (extraordinary) in South Texas, and his appointment to the governor’s Special Advisory Council is indicative of not only his reputation throughout the state, but of the deep respect Gov. Abbott has for the Rio Grande Valley,” said Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, who also serves as Chairman, House Committee on Transportation.

Under the direction of Abbott, with the recommendations and counsel of fellow Republicans Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar, the Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas will revitalize all aspects of the Lone Star State — work, school, entertainment, and culture, according to a news release by the governor’s office.

“Texans are battling a colossal challenge — an invisible enemy that has tested our lives and our livelihood  — but overcoming challenges is part of who we are as Texans,” said Abbott. “We have shown that Texas can continue our efforts to contain COVID-19 while also adopting safe standards that will allow us to begin the process of reopening Texas. The Strike Force to Open Texas brings together nationally recognized medical experts with public and private sector leaders to achieve this mission. By coming together, we can get Texans back to work, practice safety standards that will prevent the spread of COVID-19, and we can overcome this pandemic.”

Cantú’s selection became public during Abbott’s press conference at the Texas Capitol on Friday, April 17, 2020, when the governor issued three new Executive Orders to begin the process of reopening the State of Texas while revising hospital capacity and certain social distancing guidelines. 

“Alonzo Cantú has been a very successful business person. Growing up, he worked as a migrant farmworker and worked his way up to becoming an entrepreneur,” said Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, Vice-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, who as a young man also was a migrant farmworker. “In addition to employing thousands of workers across his businesses, Alonzo also provides advice to other people just getting their business started. His background experience is extensive in construction, banking, health care, and education and knows what it takes to get the Texas economy thriving again.”

Other notable Texans with roots in the Valley who is joining Cantú on the Special Advisory Council are David Oliveira of McAllen, a partner at Roerig, Oliveira & Fisher law firm, which has offices in McAllen and Brownsville, where he has practiced for more than 30 years.

Oliveira’s many credentials include serving as a gubernatorial appointee to the Texas Commission on Judicial Selection, and a member of the University of Texas Chancellor’s Council Executive Committee. Former longtime Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville, is a partner with the firm.

“Today I was formally appointed to a 39-member task force by Gov. Abbott to reopen Texas. We have been tasked with devising strategies to reopen the economy in Texas in a safe and prudent manner. I welcome the input from any of my FB friends on innovative ways to do this in a way that does not further endanger the citizens of Texas. Please feel free to message me or email me at [email protected],” Oliveira said, according to the Rio Grande Guardian.

(https://riograndeguardian.com/business-leaders-will-advise-gov-abbott-on-when-and-how-to-open-up-texas/)

Cantú is also renowned statewide for his leadership roles with DHR (Doctors Hospital at Renaissance) Health, Lone Star National Bank, Cantú Construction & Development Company, and his key involvement with many other statewide, regional, and community public service efforts.

Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, who during his legislative career – at the House District 41 lawmaker’s request – has served on the House Committee on Public Health, applauded the governor’s decision to include Cantú on the Special Advisory Council.

“Mr. Cantú has a long and proven record of job creation in South Texas and I am pleased to know the Rio Grande Valley’s interests will be well represented on this council,” said Guerra. “He will bring common sense and thoughtful suggestions to reopening Texas.” 

From custom homes to sophisticated hospitals and a university medical research center, to small and large private business facilities, even sports and entertainment complexes such as the privately-owned H-E-B Park and the City of Edinburg’s publicly-owned Bert Ogden Arena, Cantú has conceived and/or led many projects whose combined construction value approaches $1 billion, if not more.

“Mr. Cantú will provide a voice for South Texas on the governor’s advisory council. His knowledge and love for South Texas will benefit the Rio Grande Valley and the entire state,” said Rep. Óscar Longoria, Jr., D-La Joya, the Vice-Chair of the House Committee on Appropriations. “A gradual approach to re-opening the 10th largest economy in the world is a smart decision. Yet we can not forget that the foundation to our economy is health and safety.”

Cantú’s contributions to the State of Texas have been previously recognized by the governor, when on Friday, November 8, 2019, Abbott appointed Cantú to a six-year term on the nine-member Board of Regents of the University of Houston System.

Being appointed by the governor to serve as a UH System regent is high praise indeed, Hinojosa said following Cantú’s appointment to the UH System Board of Regents.

For a majority of appointments (but not to the Special Advisory Council), a potential nominee must be approved by his or her state senator prior to formal appointment by the governor. Recommendations are made to the governor, who makes the final decision.

“Alonzo Cantú is a strong supporter of education, as it was a key to his own success. As a University of Houston System regent, he will take a no-nonsense approach to governing and remain focused on solving problems,” said Hinojosa, who serves as Vice-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. “He will help the University of Houston System set goals and priorities and will ensure they are met for the betterment of the students and our state.”

As one of the founding members in 1999 of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, now known as DHR Health, Cantú has valuable access to the medical expertise of the hundreds of physicians and other health experts and can help share their perspectives, especially on behalf of deep South Texas, with the Health Care team that is part of the Governor’s Strike Force.

In 1999, Cantú and nine area physicians opened Doctors Hospital at Renaissance (now known as DHR Health), which is the region’s only physician-owned hospital, now one of the largest in the nation.

Susan Turley, President of DHR Health, said the hospital system has made an estimated $4 billion economic impact in the Valley in the past 12 years.

“Mr. Cantú’s experience, knowledge, and expertise in the areas of banking, healthcare, education, construction, and business, in general, makes him an outstanding appointment to Gov. Abbott’s Special Advisory Council,” said Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, the Dean of the Valley’s legislative delegation in the Texas House of Representatives.

Cantú also serves as Chairman of the Board of Lone Star National Bank, which brands itself as “The Valley’s Bank” in its marketing campaigns. According to the Texas Department of Banking, Lone Star National Bank certainly is at a statewide level, being designated as of December 2019 as the 39th largest bank in Texas, based on asset size.

“Coupled with Mr. Cantú being from the Rio Grande Valley, we can be assured South Texas’ voice will be heard as the Special Advisory Council develops ways to open up Texas’ economy from the devastation of COVID-19,” Martínez added. “It is important we balance the safety and health of individuals with allowing businesses to open so people can start going back to work. Mr. Cantú has the ability to help maintain this balance.

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. Along with its 500+ bed full-service health system serving more than 280,000 patients annually, it has 5,500+ employees, 1,400 nurses, and 600+ physicians providing care in 70+ specialties and sub-specialties.

DHR Health is the flagship teaching hospital for the 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.

DHR Health is headquartered on a 130-acre site, with most of the facilities in southwest Edinburg but with a growing South Campus immediately across Owassa Road in northwest McAllen.

UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS RIO GRANDE VALLEY IMPLEMENTS PASS/NO PASS GRADING OPTION FOR 2020 SPRING SEMESTER

In an effort to help students maintain their academic goals through the COVID-19 pandemic – and ease their minds during this unprecedented time – Guy Bailey, President, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley – on Friday, April 17, 2020, the implementation of a pass/no pass grading option.

“Thanks to the diligent work of our Faculty Senate and for their compassion for our students during this crisis, UTRGV will offer a pass/no pass option for the remainder of the spring semester,” Bailey said via video to the UTRGV student body. “What this means is, students now have the option of accepting a letter grade or a pass/no pass for courses they complete this semester.”

Students will have until May 13, 2020, to either accept their letter grades or choose the pass/no pass option – which means they will be able to view their letter grades first, then opt for the pass/no pass option, and only if they choose to do so.

• Grades of A, B, and C will equal a passing grade of P.
• Grades of D and F will equal a no-passing grade of NP.

And, UTRGV has extended the drop/withdrawal deadline until April 30, 2020.

“I think the pass/no pass system is an awesome option for students,” said Sarah Wesley, a UTRGV Environmental Science major from Edinburg. “Things are so hectic for everyone right now. I personally know students that have worked extremely hard all semester who have lost resources and time to continue working.

“It relieves me to know they’re taking steps to help out the student body and that they’re listening to our needs,” she added.

Bailey encouraged students to have proactive conversations about the ramifications of their choices with their advisors and faculty during these final weeks of the semester, as choosing the pass/no pass option could affect financial aid and future academic progress.

To assist students, the university developed FAQs to further guide them on the pass/no pass option.

“It’s incredible that students who need their letter grades for medical school applications, etc., are able to have their grades to display, and students struggling with the repercussions of COVID-19 can lighten their worries as a result of the pass/no pass option,” said Verania Elizondo Chapa, a UTRGV Psychology major from Brownsville. 

Due to the ever-changing challenges the pandemic brings to university students, UTRGV also has offered other services to help keep students on track in their academic goals, including:

• Increasing the UTRGV Tuition Advantage program to cover costs of tuition for qualifying students with a family income of $95,000 or less. That’s is a $20,000 increase from the current plan;
• Waiving theGRE and GMAT testing requirements for students pursuing graduate or doctoral degrees; and
• Implementing theStudent Emergency Fund for students who need immediate assistance due to these unforeseen circumstances.

For more information on the pass/no pass option, visit here. For the latest news on the COVID-19 pandemic and UTRGV’s procedures, including student information and services, visit here.

“It hasn’t been easy, and every day seems to bring new challenges,” Bailey said. “I am proud of the way we’ve all adapted and come together to respond to this crisis.” 

About UTRGV

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.

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 campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), 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.

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Amanda Taylor contributed to this article. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).

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