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City of Edinburg delegation presents $1 million for RAHC facility

Making good on a 1998 promise, state and city of Edinburg elected officials on Wednesday presented a $1 million check to The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio in support of the Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC) component in Edinburg. The RAHC Medical Research Division will be located next to UT-Pan American.

At the UT System Board of Regents meeting at UT Dallas, Edinburg Mayor Joe Ochoa, Sen.-Elect Juan Hinojosa and Rep.-Elect Aaron Pena presented the check to Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., president of the Health Science Center. The funding is for operating expenses associated with the RAHC Medical Research Division and is part of a 4-year-old partnership agreement between the city of Edinburg and the UT System.

"I am pleased to present, on behalf of the city of Edinburg, its local community commitment of one million dollars," Mayor Ochoa said.

Dr. Cigarroa said this will be of great benefit to the region. "This research initiative will have a similar economic impact in the Rio Grande Valley as the UT Health Science Center research initiatives have in San Antonio," he said. "The Health Science Center is the catalyst for the $8 billion-a-year medical research and biotechnology industry in our city. This RAHC facility also will provide disease understandings to ultimately improve the health of the region. The high rates of diabetes, tuberculosis, dengue fever and other diseases in the Valley require that we build a research facility of great magnitude and consequence."

"This new research center literally will pump millions of dollars into the economy of Edinburg and the entire Rio Grande Valley," said Sen.-Elect Juan Hinojosa, who was the House sponsor of Senate Bill 606 (by Sen. Eddie Lucio), which established the RAHC. "I celebrate the RAHC's presence next to our other great academic research university, UT-Pan American."

Rep.-Elect Pena said: "As the newly elected state representative for House District 40, I look forward to working on behalf of the progress of the RAHC Medical Research Division and the advances that will benefit citizens of the Rio Grande Valley."

Mark G. Yudof, chancellor of the UT System, commended Dr. Cigarroa on his working collaborations with the city of Edinburg and the South Texas legislative delegation. "The San Antonio Health Science Center is a nationally recognized center of research," he said, "and its guiding hand ensures that the RAHC Medical Research Division at Edinburg will be every bit as outstanding."

The RAHC Medical Research Division facility will enjoy close collaboration with UT-Pan American in seeking new knowledge about diseases that afflict the population of the region, said Leonel Vela, M.D., M.P.H., regional dean of the RAHC and professor at the Health Science Center's School of Medicine. "This facility, and the RAHC Medical Education Division already open in Harlingen, will enable students considering careers as physicians and/or scientists to receive their training in the Valley," Dr. Vela said.

Groundbreaking is planned for Dec. 11 in Edinburg. The Health Science Center also operates the RAHC Medical Education Division in Harlingen, where more than 1,000 people including Gov. Rick Perry attended the building dedication on June 28. Each year, 48 Health Science Center students will complete their third and fourth years of medical school in the Valley while eight new physicians complete their residencies.

The $20 million Edinburg facility will occupy 46,700 square feet. Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum Inc. (HOK) is the architect; the general contractor is to be determined. The RAHC Medical Research Division will include a laboratory animal resources facility, a Level 3 biological safety laboratory, offices and other lab space. The facility also will provide space for a cooperative program in clinical pharmacy leading to the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree. The degree will be granted through the UT Austin College of Pharmacy and UT-Pan American.

Contact: Will Sansom