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Cigarroa, Romo praise new biomedical engineering degree program

San Antonio (Jan. 31, 2003) — The presidents of both The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and The University of Texas at San Antonio applauded the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board's approval Jan. 30 of a joint graduate degree program in biomedical engineering for the two institutions.

"We are entering a bold new era of collaboration with our counterparts at UTSA, and it is a partnership that most certainly will benefit the citizens of San Antonio, Bexar County and South Texas," said Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., president of the Health Science Center. "When Dr. Romo and I presented this concept to the UT System Board of Regents, we noted that this program will train students in one of the newest and most needed job markets."

"This degree program is a model of administrative collaboration and innovation in the sciences," said UTSA President Ricardo Romo, Ph.D. "I commend individuals at both institutions for their hard work and commitment to expanding access to quality higher education."

The program will build on the synergies of the already existing world-class science in San Antonio, said Program Director C. Mauli Agrawal, Ph.D., who is a professor of orthopaedics at the Health Science Center and associate dean for research and graduate studies for engineering at UTSA.

"The program faculty includes outstanding scientists, many of whom are addressing questions in the field of biomedical engineering," Dr. Agrawal said. "Those include research in the areas of tissue regeneration to facilitate healing, development of new-generation balloon-expandable stents for arteries, discovery of new types of dental fillings and enamels, and cutting-edge work in imaging. UTSA also brings other outstanding engineers to the table. They are the perfect collaborators for the scientists at the Health Science Center."

The new program will confer Ph.D. and master's degrees, but the goal is to train Ph.D.'s from the start, Dr. Agrawal said. Applicants with bachelor's or master's degrees in the sciences or engineering will be considered for the program.

The first class of no more than eight students will begin studies this fall. A set of core courses will include a choice between either anatomy or physiology courses at the Health Science Center and required courses in biomaterials, biomechanics, imaging and electronics. "The idea is these students are coming from diverse backgrounds, and the core courses will give them a common foundation for the upper-level courses," Dr. Agrawal said.

In another course, Introduction to Clinical Practices, physicians will teach the engineering students about common problems they see in the clinics and how these are treated.

"Biomedical engineering is the fastest growing engineering discipline in the country, and in the past 25 years, enrollment in graduate programs for biomedical engineering has tripled," Dr. Agrawal said. "There are almost 100 programs available in the country, but this is the first for San Antonio and South Texas."

The biosciences sector is the largest economic generator in San Antonio, providing $8 billion annually. "This program provides a new avenue of training people for that industry," Dr. Agrawal said. "The graduates should be eagerly awaited by all biomedical companies and the start-up companies in San Antonio."

Contact: Will Sansom, UT Health Science Center, (210) 567-2570, or Kris Rodriguez, UTSA, (210) 458-4550