University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, M.D., received the 2013 Luminary Award on Feb. 12 from the Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute for his commitment to further the development of the life science industry in Texas. UT System Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs Kenneth Shine, M.D., introduced the Chancellor at the event.
"I am deeply honored to receive this award from the Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute," said Cigarroa. "My life’s work has been a fusion of transplant surgery, medical education and administration, and now higher education, so this award is special to me because it acknowledges that my professional interests and my passions can reside comfortably in a single career, and with a single purpose – to save lives."
Cigarroa acknowledged his good friend and colleague Ken Shine, describing him as "a legend in medical education and health care policy nationwide." He credited Shine's tireless efforts for the past ten years to focus on building medical schools in Austin and South Texas, and said, "I am happy to report that because of Ken’s hard work and dedication, that day has arrived. We will build those medical schools, and they will become a significant part of the medical and healthcare landscape of Texas because of Ken Shine’s leadership and perseverance."
As the keynote speaker for the evening, Cigarroa talked about UT System's role in developing a competitive life-science culture in Texas and referenced a 2007 report, "Rising above the Gathering Storm," by a committee chosen by the National Academies. The report expressed deep concern that the scientific and technological building blocks critical to economic leadership in the United States are eroding at a time when other nations are gathering strength.
The Chancellor emphasized the work of the 15 UT System institutions to meet those challenges, including support of the STEM fields in his development of “A Framework for Advancing Excellence throughout The University of Texas System” in 2011. The Chancellor’s Framework, which was updated in 2012, outlines nine focal areas of concentration for enhancing higher education, two of the most important being "Research" and "The Health of Texas."
"For example, at UT M.D. Anderson Cancer Center – the best cancer care center in the world – President Ron DePinho and his remarkable team have marshaled their energy and skills in a bold new effort he calls ‘moon shots,’ which is an accurate metaphor for the results he and his team are expecting,” said Cigarroa. “This ambitious $3 billion initiative will bring together researchers and clinicians to eradicate cancers that annually account for more than 260,000 deaths."
"It is our goal to build larger capacity and greater success in health education, research and patient care for the benefit of all our citizens."
He cited numerous initiatives to support this statement, including the Board of Regents’ approval to create two new medical schools for the people of Texas, one in Austin and one in South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley; the development of the UT System Horizon Fund to provide financial support for projects developed by System faculty and researchers that have promising commercial applications; and statistics that show UT System ranking among the top five in the world in terms of total research funding, issued patents, commercialization agreements and start-ups for academic institutions.
"Working together, we will make a significant difference in healthcare for our fellow Texans and for future generations here and throughout the world," concluded Cigarroa.