South Texas health care leaders dedicate UTRGV simulation hospital

HARLINGEN – The South Texas health care community gathered Wednesday morning to unveil a state-of-the-art simulation teaching hospital, marking a significant step in The University of Texas System’s efforts to transform health care in the Rio Grande Valley.

The 15,000-square-foot facility, called the UT Rio Grande Valley Smart Hospital, is located in Harlingen at the Regional Academic Health Center , a satellite of the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio . UT Rio Grande Valley , which will open in fall 2015, is being created by combining the talents, assets and resources of UT Brownsville , UT Pan American and the RAHC. UTRGV’s medical school will open in fall 2016.

“This is an exciting day for all of us involved in medical education and the healthcare profession in Texas,” Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D. said. “And it is a very special day for the people of South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley, who will benefit greatly from the improvements in patient treatment, patient safety and patient care that will result from state-of-the-art medical training at this new facility.”

The UTRGV Smart Hospital, designed and built using $10 million in funding from the UT System Board of Regents, is equipped with the latest in medical simulation technology to provide hands-on training to current and future doctors, nurses, pharmacists and allied health professionals. It includes an operating room, a delivery room and astonishingly lifelike computerized manikins that can do everything from have a heart attack to deliver a baby.

“The UTRGV Smart Hospital will give students from a variety of disciplines the opportunity to train together as a team, just as would occur in a real-world hospital setting,” said Dr. Francisco Fernandez, founding dean of the UTRGV medical school. “This hospital puts us ahead of the curve in promoting the team approach to health care, but most importantly it will result in better patient care in South Texas.”

Healthcare providers, first-responders and even students attending health profession high schools from throughout the South Texas region also will have access to clinical simulations at the hospital and via mobile units and video conferencing.

“The simulation manikins are a great resource for us because they provide a bridge between books and actual patients,” said Barbara Heater, principal of the South Texas High School for Health Professions, known as Med High.

Community and health care leaders who attended the dedication ceremony Wednesday took tours of the hospital and watched simulation demonstrations. The hospital is expected to be fully operational by the end of this summer.

The UT Health Science Center at San Antonio played a critical leadership role in establishment of the UTRGV Smart Hospital and will initially manage the hospital through the RAHC until the UTRGV medical school is accredited and freestanding. 

The UTRGV Smart Hospital is part of the South Texas Simulation Education Network, which includes hospitals, medical centers and institutions of higher education throughout the Rio Grande Valley.

About The University of Texas System

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.

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