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UTRGV School of Medicine's $1 million contribution from the Edinburg City Council being reviewed, could be reduced, in favor of other priorities - Titans of the Texas Legislature

Featured: In this image from September 28, 2018, the City of Edinburg presented a $1 million check to help fund educational, research, and clinical endeavors by the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, which has a major component in the city. From left in this photograph from almost two years ago are UTRGV Medical Student Pamela Matías, City Councilmember Jorge Salinas, UTRGV School of Medicine Dean John H. Krouse, Mayor Richard Molina, UTRGV Vice President for Governmental and Community Relations Verónica Gonzáles, UTRGV Medical Student Rachel Salinas, and City Councilmember Gilbert Enríquez. 

Photograph Courtesy UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS RIO GRANDE VALLEY

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UTRGV School of Medicine’s $1 million annual contribution from the Edinburg City Council being reviewed, could be reduced, in favor of other priorities

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
[email protected]

On Tuesday, September 1, 2020, the issue of whether the Edinburg City Council will continue providing its annual $1 million donation to the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine – which has a major component in the city – was reviewed by the mayor and four city councilmembers, with more discussion on the matter scheduled for Thursday, September 3, during a city council budget workshop.

UTRGV’s School of Medicine came up during the Zoom video session of the city council, as part of their discussion and consideration of the proposed tax rate for the city budget – which has not yet been approved – that would begin October 1, 2020, and last through September 30, 2021.

The Thursday, September 3, 2020 city budget workshop, which begins at 2:30 p.m., also will be broadcast live on the city’s website, since the Edinburg City Council, for several months, has not met at Edinburg City Hall because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

City Councilmember Jorge Salinas expressed his desire to use the $1 million for other city programs or dropping the property tax rate by one to two cents per $100 property valuation to help homeowners.

“With everything that’s going on right now, everybody’s been affected by COVID, everybody has had to tighten their budgets,” Salinas said. “I like the two-cent drop (in the city property tax rate), and don’t give that $1 million to UTRGV. I mean, that medical school gets funded millions upon millions upon millions. I’ve always been against it. I’ve always wanted to use that $1 million for the cultural arts center. Why not? Something to think about.”

City Manager Ron Garza said that the final city budget will reflect whatever the majority of the city council requires.

“Whatever the will of the council – if it is committing to the $1 million (in funding for the UTRGV School of Medicine) or less than that, or whatever, we will adjust,” Garza said.

In the previous several years, the City of Edinburg, along with other localities, have offered to donate money annually to support the School of Medicine as part of a memorandum of understanding UTRGV signed with those local governments. 

The City of Edinburg committed to giving $1 million annually to the School of Medicine.

Dr. John H. Krouse, Executive Vice president for Health Affairs and Dean of the School of Medicine, during a public ceremony almost two years ago,  thanked city officials and said the funds would be used to support faculty recruitment and the School of Medicine’s medical education program, including student support services and curriculum development.

“We will use the funds from the city to continue to educate the best and the brightest and to prepare that next group of physicians for the Valley,” he said. “We will use it to expand access to high-quality healthcare. We know that the Valley is among the areas in the country that has the poorest access to care, and we, with your partnership, are committed to changing that so that all of your citizens will have access to care.”

At that time, Krouse also updated city officials and others in attendance on current projects the university and School of Medicine are developing, such as a Team-Based Learning Center on the Edinburg campus and a clinical site on Jackson Road, which will offer primary and specialty care.

As of September 2018, the School of Medicine had 350 employees, including more than 110 faculty members, and 170 medical residents serving in the School of Medicine’s nine residency programs. Of the residents who have graduated from the residency programs, 64 percent have stayed in the Valley to practice medicine, Krouse said.

During that ceremony, which featured a photo session of medical school and city leaders, Molina said he looked forward to continuing the partnership between the city and the School of Medicine.

“The presence of the UTRGV School of Medicine continues to bring great things to Edinburg,” Molina said. “We are educating a new generation of health care providers for our community, shining a light on our region through our groundbreaking research and providing much-needed care for the neediest.

“The council and I recognize the fact that the UTRGV School of Medicine is expanding the type of healthcare and quality of healthcare that’s needed by our Edinburg families and our families not only here but all over the Rio Grande Valley.”

 UT RIO GRANDE VALLEY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE COLLABORATES WITH STANFORD, HARVARD FOR “MY HERO IS YOU’ SHORT FILM ABOUT COVID-19

UTRGV School of Medicine has collaborated with Stanford Medicine and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to release a video adaptation of the children’s book, “My Hero is You.” 

The purpose of the video and book is to help educate children around the world about COVID-19.  

The book, released in early 2020, was created by mental health and psychosocial support experts from the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), the highest-level humanitarian coordination forum of the United Nations. It has been translated into more than 125 languages and is available to download from the IASC’s website.  

The animated short film was created by a team of faculty from the UTRGV School of Medicine, Stanford Medicine, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, led by Stanford Medicine’s Maya Adam. Input and oversight were provided by the IASC Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Reference Group, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization (WHO).  

The film aims to convey messages of hope, resilience, solidarity, and empowerment to children and their caregivers.   

The goal of collaborating partners was to create something to share with children around the world, which is why there is no text in the video. The animation team they hired included Chaz Bottoms, Matt Torode, and Monica A. Young. It took about three months to complete the film.

UTRGV School of Medicine’s Dr. Marsha Griffin, a professor in the Department of Pediatrics and director of the Division of Child and Family Health and Humanitarian Care Respite Clinic Medical, was a content advisor for the animated video, focusing on the best ways to get a child’s attention.  

“My job was to look from a child’s eyes. And, whatever age group we were targeting, what would be some things that are important based on their developmental stage,” she said. “Most importantly, it had to be fun.” 

Griffin hopes the video goes viral and reaches families across the world to help them understand during this time of uncertainty. Children are just as likely to feel tired and depressed because they can’t be around their friends, she said, and the story video will help them understand and, hopefully, empower them.  

“I think it is important that we give the world’s children the power to recreate the world, to reimagine the world. We need them in this moment. We need them now,” she said. “We’re asking them to come along; we’re not asking them to stand aside. And we’ll solve the world’s problems together. We need them.” 

The collaborating efforts help the UTRGV School of Medicine fulfill their mission of helping better the lives of people in the community and beyond, Griffin said.  

“This is putting us with some very big movers in the world – the World Health Organization, UNICEF, Stanford, Harvard School of Public Health. To be creating things at that level and partnering is, I think, very important for UTRGV,” she said. “But for the children, and that’s my main interest, it’s also fun.”
Griffin also collaborated with video assistance on “The Great Race: A COVID-19 Story,” a short video available to watch on Stanford Medicine’s YouTube channel.    

“My Hero is You” was released Thursday, Aug. 20, and can be viewed here:

Visit the IASC’s website to download the book. 

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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Jennifer Berghom and Amanda Alaniz 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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