Sen. Judith Zaffirini, Laredo community and civic leaders, elected officials, and representatives of The University of Texas System will join Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., president of the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), to dedicate the $10 million D.D. Hachar Building at 11:30 a.m. Monday, Dec. 16. The Hachar Building, at 1937 Bustamante, is the first facility of UTHSCSA's Laredo Campus Extension.
"Without Senator Zaffirini's support of this project in Austin, the Laredo Campus Extension could not have become a reality," said Dr. Cigarroa, a native Laredoan. "The D.D. Hachar Foundation provided $2 million for this project, and Sen. Zaffirini was able to procure another $2 million from tobacco monies and an additional $4 million from Tuition Revenue Bonds. We honor Mr. Hachar, who was a wonderful businessman and philanthropist, and the Killam Family, which generously donated $500,000 for the clock tower that stands beside the Hachar Building, as true representatives of the Laredo spirit. This building promises greater opportunities for health professions students in Laredo and the region." Laredo philanthropists Sue and Radcliffe Killam and family donated the clock tower, which also plays music, including "The Eyes of Texas" every noon.
The 19,800-square-foot facility will house programs funded through the South Texas/Border Region Health Professional Initiative (STBI); allied health course offerings in emergency medical technology, clinical laboratory sciences, occupational therapy and respiratory care; an academy of homeland defense and preparedness; and occupational/environmental health training for medical students and physicians.
"The Laredo Campus Extension will enable students to stay in Laredo while gaining education and training in the fields of emergency medical technology, clinical laboratory sciences, occupational therapy and respiratory care," said Marilyn S. Harrington, Ph.D., dean of the UTHSCSA School of Allied Health Sciences. "This will be a welcome addition for the outstanding young people of Laredo and for non-traditional students who are seeking second careers in these allied health fields."
Dr. Harrington said UTHSCSA has formed mutually beneficial partnerships with Texas A&M International University and Laredo Community College, whose guidance and assistance has been important to educational programs at the new campus. "The Mid Rio Grande Border AHEC, under the leadership of Dr. Gladys Keene, also has been vital for this project," she said.
The Laredo offerings include a master's degree in occupational therapy, bachelor's degrees in respiratory care and clinical laboratory sciences, and certificates and bachelor's degrees in emergency medical technology. "Laredo students will come to San Antonio for orientation and as determined during the course of the curriculum, but we have designed it so that it all happens at the Hachar Building, including the clinical experiences," Dr. Harrington said.
The Hachar Building features the latest in Web-based instruction and interactive television. Two School of Allied Health Sciences faculty members, respiratory therapists Kim McCrea and Adrianna Guerra, are working full time in Laredo and others will commute from San Antonio to teach courses. Guerra graduated from UTHSCSA's respiratory care program.
The Health Science Center's Laredo-based South Texas Environmental Education and Research Program (STEER), which began in space at the Laredo Health Department, is relocating to the Hachar Building. "The new lab space will enable STEER participants to do hands-on work with lab equipment as part of their projects, practicums and thesis work," said Claudia S. Miller, M.D., associate professor at UTHSCSA and STEER Program director.
During a one-month rotation in Laredo, STEER students learn the key environmental and occupational issues that impact the health of the border region. Roger Perales and Joan Engelhardt are the environmental medical training coordinators. "Our motto is to let the community be your teacher," Dr. Miller said. "The idea is to consider the community and culture when we treat patients. To my knowledge, our program is the only one of its kind on the border. Some STEER students have set up practice in Laredo."
Hachar, a Lebanese immigrant who overcame early financial disadvantages, created the D.D. Hachar Charitable Trust Fund to provide financial support to educational institutions seeking to extend facilities and services to students in the Laredo area. It is one of the largest philanthropic efforts devoted to advancing health and educational opportunities in South Texas. The trust gave a gift of $2 million, the largest disbursement in its history, for the Laredo Campus Extension.
The Hachar Building also was financed by Tuition Revenue Bonds and state tobacco settlement revenue. The city of Laredo provided a $1.8 million land value gift for the campus.