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Groundbreaking ceremony set for Friday, October 14, 2022 for $145.7 million UT Health RGV Cancer and Surgery Center in McAllen, announce Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra and Sen. Juan Hinojosa - Titans of the Texas Legislature

FEATURED: Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, greets constituents and members of the Valley Automobile Dealers Association on Monday, December 6, 2021.

Photograph Courtesy REP. R.D. “BOBBY” GUERRA FACEBOOK


Groundbreaking ceremony set for Friday, October 14, 2022 for $145.7 million UT Health RGV Cancer and Surgery Center in McAllen, announce Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra and Sen. Juan Hinojosa

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The largest single project in the history of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley – the $145.7 million UT Health RGV Cancer and Surgery Center in McAllen – will be celebrated on Friday, October 14, 2022, with a groundbreaking ceremony, Rep. R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-McAllen, has announced.

The approved funding – $145,723,401 – will come from the Permanent University Fund Bond Proceeds ($49,493,963), Tuition Revenue Bond Proceeds ($44,922,833), Revenue Financing System Proceeds ($40,000,000), Designated Funds ($10,306,605), and $1 million from the City of McAllen.

The center will allow for the provision of comprehensive cancer and surgical services that are on the leading edge of medicine, by serving as an incubator to train the physicians and scientist leaders of the future, according to UTRGV leaders.

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, a world leader in cancer care and research, is providing oncology advisory services to the UT Health RGV Cancer and Surgery Center to develop and launch the program.

The medical campus, which is being built in Guerra’s House District 41 and Hinojosa’s Senate District 20, will be located on Pecan Boulevard between Jackson and McColl Roads within the 495 Commerce Center development in McAllen.

The groundbreaking ceremony, which is open to the public, will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, October 14, 2022.

For more information or accommodations, contact [email protected]

Guerra, whose current legislative service includes his leadership role as Vice Chair, House Committee on Public Health, offered his thoughts about the upcoming construction of the UT RGV Cancer and Surgery Center in McAllen.

“With the creation of the new UT Health Rio Grande Valley Cancer and Surgery Center, our plan takes another step forward to increase medical provider density in our community which in turn increases care for our families. So many families are traumatized by a cancer diagnosis in the RGV,” said Guerra. “With the new UT Health RGV Cancer and Surgery Center, we can alleviate one of the more stressful aspects of a cancer diagnosis by providing high quality cancer care right here at home.

“Patients won’t have to travel out of the area to receive the same access they would now be receiving here,” the McAllen state representative continued. “This reduces the burden on families dealing with an accumulation of medical bills and travel expenses and lets them focus on the most important thing – turning every cancer patient into a cancer survivor.”

Hinojosa, who on Friday, August 26, 2022, first announced the approval of funding for the cancer and surgery center by the UT System Board of Regents, praised the unanimous decision by the UT System Board of Regents to bring such a cutting-edge medical complex to deep South Texas.

The action by the UT System Board of Regents “was necessary for this Center to advance the goal of expanding access to educational opportunities and medical education, which will increase access to care for our Valley families and help decrease our physician shortage in the region,” Hinojosa added.

He also made special note of the influence of the leadership of DHR Health in the effort.

“The concept was first proposed by DHR Health’s leadership to create a partnership with M.D. Anderson Cancer Center,” Hinojosa said. “We continue working to secure the partnerships and investments necessary so that in the future, our cancer patients in South Teas will have access to top-notch facilities and world-class doctors – here at home.”

DHR Health is the flagship teaching hospital for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley 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 70 clinics Valley-wide, advanced cancer services, the only transplant program in the Rio Grande Valley – and as of September 8, 2021, the first and only 24/7 Designated Level One Trauma Center south of San Antonio.

On Tuesday, November 16, 2021, Driscoll Health System, in partnership with DHR Health, held a groundbreaking ceremony for Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley, located at 2820 W. Michelangelo Drive in Edinburg, which is being built on the site of the DHR Health campus, next to DHR Health’s The Women’s Hospital at Renaissance.

The new, independently operated, eight-level pediatric hospital will further the mission of Driscoll Children’s Hospital founder Clara Driscoll to provide medical care to all the children of South Texas. The building is expected to be completed in Spring 2023.

The Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley represents a combined investment of more than $105 million. Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley will operate with more than 500 employees, creating significant economic impact and new job opportunities for clinical, ancillary and support staff in the Valley.

Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, Ltd (“DHR”) and its general partner, RGV Med, Inc. (“RGV Med”) own and operate a 519 licensed bed general acute care hospital located at 5501 South McColl in Edinburg. The facility is one of the largest physician-owned facilities in the United States that began as an ambulatory surgery center in 1997.

In 2021, Hinojosa joined UTRGV President Guy Bailey in announcing the UT Health RGV Cancer and Surgery Center, which is part of the Phase 1 Development of UTRGV’s McAllen Academic Medical Campus, which totals 38 acres in size.

Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, Chair, House Committee on Transportation, recalled the united front by Valley state legislators almost 10 years ago that help lead to the approved creation of the UT Health RGV Cancer and Surgery Center.

“In 2013, I served as one of the lead authors of legislation that created the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and its School of Medicine,” he said. “I knew this would be a game changer for our region.”

As a result of their teamwork, Senate Bill 24 – whose primary author was Hinojosa – the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas.

Legislation is proposed or enacted law or group of laws.

The author is the Texas lawmaker who files a bill and guides it through the legislative process (also called the primary author).

“As we work to increase access to health care and educate the next generation of healthcare professionals right here in the Rio Grande Valley, UT Health RGV and the UTRGV School of Medicine are leading the charge to provide quality healthcare services in South Texas,” Canales said.

Rep. ÓscarLongoria, Jr., D-Mission, Rep. Armando “Mando” Martínez, D-Weslaco, and Rep. Sergio Muñoz, Jr., D-Mission, also are authors/sponsors of the legislation that created the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and its School of Medicine.

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.

“We all know someone who has been touched by cancer. The authorization of $147.5 million for the UT Health RGV Cancer and Surgery Center gives us another resource to fight this terrible disease,” said Longoria. “Not only is it the largest construction project in UTRGV history, it provides cancer-stricken Valley residents and families more treatment options that do not require them to drive hours away from home.”

Martínez said the UT Health RGV Cancer and Surgery Center is part of a relentless effort by South Texas legislators and UTRGV, business, medical, and community leaders to make the region’s university system among the most prestigious in the nation.

“One of our goal when we passed Senate Bill 24 in 2013 was the make UTRGV and the School of Medicine premier institutions of higher learning, not just in Texas, but in the United States,” said Martínez. “The approval of the $145.7 million UT Health RGV Cancer and Surgery Center is a big step forward. I am very proud of UTRGV’s students, staff, faculty, and administration and of all of their achievements. I am equally proud of the work the Valley state legislative delegation continues to do to realize our well-deserved and hard-earned ambitions.”

Muñoz, who serves as a member of the House Committee on Higher Education, said the UT Health RGV Cancer and Surgery Center is designed to support UTRGV’s ongoing campus expansion Valleywide to provide multi disciplinarian education, research, and clinical missions.

Citing the UT System’s summary of the project, he further explained, “The Center will allow for the provision of comprehensive cancer and surgical services that are one the leading edge of medicine by serving as an incubator (need synonym) to train the physicians and scientist leaders of the future.”

The three-story, 144,231 square-foot UT Health RGV Cancer and Surgery Center will include a radiation oncology clinic, medical oncology clinic, diagnostics imaging suite, rehabilitation therapy, ambulatory surgery center, orthopedics clinic, and support service space for these modalities, Muñoz added.

According to the UTRGV website, Senate Bill 24 by Hinojosa was a transformative initiative that 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.

Up until 2013, UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville were not eligible to receive money from the Permanent University Fund. With the passage of Senate Bill 24, UTRGV was created and given access to that fund.

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, Weslaco, 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.

University of Texas Rio Grande Valley admits the largest cohort of the Physician Assistant Career Track program for high school students

The most recent – and largest –group of the Physician Assistant Career Track (PACT) Early Assurance Program for high school students is now enrolled at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

PACT, in the university’s Department of Physician Assistant Studies, College of Health Professions, allows high school students to enter the Early Assurance Program, which provides a seamless transition into the master’s program.

The program is designed to help South Texas high school students interested in a future career as a physician assistant by providing career pathways through the program.

UTRGV’s PACT selects a limited number of high-achieving area students who begin their undergraduate career at UTRGV, while also receiving conditional admission to enter the university’s College of Health Profession’s Master in Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) upon graduation.

To qualify for PACT, students must:

• Be in the top 5 percent of their high school graduating class.
• Have at least a 3.7 GPA.

The program only accepts 10 students per academic year, and to date, only five have been admitted to each cohort.

However, this past spring, the program accepted eight students, the largest number to be accepted. Once students complete their undergraduate requirements, they can then apply to the program. Certain criteria will mean automatic acceptance.

“If they maintain honors status, we would have a seat waiting for them in the graduate program,” said Angelica Urbina, PACT program coordinator.

As long as prerequisites are met, the students may pursue any major, but the majority often major in science- and health-related fields.

Urbina said that, with each new cohort, students increasingly arrive more prepared and qualified.

“Every year, it seems like the students we are getting are higher achievers,” she said. “They have more college hours; they have more community service. It is getting more and more competitive, because they have just all these opportunities for them in high school.”

The newest PACT students are:

• Damaris Cantú (UTRGV Collegiate High School).
• Scarlet Elizondo (PSJA Thomas Jefferson T-STEM Early College High School).
• Ana Ramírez (Valley View HS).
• Tori Villarreal (Valley View HS).
• Iván González (Mission HS).
• Greeshma John (UTRGV Mathematics and Science Academy).
• Blanca Ochoa (Los Fresnos HS).
• Jacklyn Espinosa (Hidalgo ECHS).

“The PACT program is a tremendous boost for admitting our local Valley students from a very competitive pool of more than 2,000 applicants,” said Frank Ambriz, department chair and clinical professor in the UTRGV Physician Assistant program. “Local students completing the PACT program will be academically prepared to succeed in our program. We welcome their accomplishments.”


Scarlet Elizondo, from San Juan, decided to pursue the PACT program as a pathway to give back to the community.

“I decided I wanted to pursue the PA career after really understanding my personal interests, strengths and goals,” she said. “One of the best ways to give back to members of my community would be by directly contributing to their well-being. That’s why, when I discovered UTRGV’s PACT program, I was extremely motivated to get a head start and apply.”

Dual Enrollment courses put Elizondo ahead in her college education. She is entering the PACT program with 62 college credit hours and holds an associate degree in biology.

She also took capstone coursesto enrich her medical knowledge at PSJA Thomas Jefferson T-Stem Early College High School, where she participated in the HOSA Future Health Professionals.

She also completed a phlebotomy certification course, which gave her hands-on exposure in the medical community.

In the PACT program, Elizondo hopes to expand on her foundation in the healthcare community.

“I expect to study more clinical topics and gain in-depth knowledge about specific diseases, their development and their treatments,” she said. “I also look forward to learning about the practical side of the PA profession and acquiring the skills necessary to perform specific medical procedures.”

Elizondo chose UTRGV to stay close to home and to utilize the programs and resources UTRGV offers its students.

“I believe the culture the university is surrounded by is extremely unique,” Elizondo said. “Being able to work with peers and professionals who have a deep understanding of the local community – as well as the partnerships the university has with facilities within the Valley – facilitates targeting issues the area faces and permits direct positive impact.”

Jhoana Rivera, a senior in the first cohort of the PACT program, joined the program to be able to study healthcare and still stay close to home.

The Hidalgo ECHS alum will graduate in Spring 2023 and currently is in the process of finalizing her application and requirements for the PA program at UTRGV to enter in Fall 2023.

The PACT program has provided me with the security and motivation to protect my academics, properly prepare myself, and network within the PA program before entering,” Rivera said.

“What I find unique about being in the PACT program is that, despite being conditionally/pre-accepted, I have immersed myself in the PA profession and continued to demonstrate my inclination to learn,” she said. “Because of the PACT program, school excites me and I am fully motivated.”

For more information about the PACT program and the UTRGV Department of Physician Assistant Studies, visit


Melissa Vázquez and Victoria Brito 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 (

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