AUSTIN – In another historic step in the march to higher education opportunities for the Rio Grande Valley, The University of Texas System Board of Regents Thursday unanimously approved the establishment of a doctor of medicine degree at UT Rio Grande Valley.
UTRGV, which will combine the assets, talents and resources of UT Brownsville and UT Pan American, is set to open its doors in August 2015. The following year, in July 2016, the university’s medical school will accept the charter class of 50 first-year medical students, subject to preliminary accreditation by the Liaison Committee for Medical Education (LCME), the national accrediting body for institutions that offer a medical degree.
“This is a continuation of an historic milestone for the entire Rio Grande Valley, one of the most medically-underserved regions in the nation,” said UT System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D. “The new medical degree program at UTRGV will educate physicians to be skilled clinicians, biomedical scientists and innovators and help to transform the health care system regionally and across Texas.”
The UTRGV medical school will adopt an innovative curriculum that is sequenced vertically and horizontally to integrate basic and clinical sciences.
“The South Texas region is different and unique geographically, culturally and medically, from the rest of Texas,” said Francisco Fernandez, M.D., the medical school’s founding dean. “Our medical students will have the opportunity to be part of community-based projects aimed at addressing specific health needs, including incidences of obesity and diabetes that are significantly higher than the rest of the state and nation.”
Regents already have approved $54 million from the Permanent University Fund for the construction of a medical school building in Edinburg. Medical education programs will take place at several locations throughout Hidalgo and Cameron counties, including at the new facility, at the existing Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen and at other existing and planned facilities.
Already operational in Harlingen is the UT Rio Grande Valley Smart Hospital, a 15,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art simulation teaching hospital built with $10 million allocated by the Board of Regents.
The fully-functional medical school “will be a big step towards providing greater access to health care throughout the Rio Grande Valley, transforming medical education and health care for all of South Texas,” said Guy Bailey, UTRGV’s founding president. “The entire community’s enthusiasm and support for the School of Medicine is very impressive. The dream that so many have had for so long is finally becoming a reality.”
Educating students, providing care for patients, conducting groundbreaking research and serving the needs of Texans and the nation for more than 130 years, The University of Texas System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States, with nine academic universities, six health institutions and a fall 2013 enrollment of more than 213,000. The UT System confers more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees, educates two-thirds of the state’s health care professionals annually and accounts for almost 70 percent of all research funds awarded to public universities in Texas. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $14.6 billion (FY 2014) including $3 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. With about 90,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.