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A Man on a Mission

April 2002

by Amanda Gallagher

As the Health Science Center blazed a trail into the 21st century, it sought a leader capable of guiding the institution through an evolving landscape of expanding technology, increasing life spans and diseases that recognize no borders.

On Sept. 7, the institution formally recognized that man. Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., accepted the presidency in an investiture ceremony rich with academic tradition and South Texas pride.

More than 1,000 people, including academic and political leaders from across the United States and Mexico, gathered on campus for the formal ceremony, underwritten by a donation from Pfizer Inc.

During his address, Dr. Cigarroa promised to fulfill a mission, outlined in the state Constitution, calling for a "university of the first class."

"My overarching goal can be stated rather simply: to take this Health Science Center to the top tier of academic health centers in the nation," Dr. Cigarroa said.

His plans include expanding support for research endeavors, establishing an M.D./Ph.D. program that enables medical students to become physician-scientists, investing further in the university’s technology and educational infrastructure, and combating the shortage of South Texas health care professionals with an increase in scholarship funding.

"I have another commitment to the future. It can best be described by a phrase I use often: ‘No closed doors.’ Bright, dedicated young people should never be denied the opportunity to attend the Health Science Center because of a lack of financial resources," he said.

University of Texas System Regents Patrick C. Oxford and Cyndi Taylor Krier presented Dr. Cigarroa with the Presidential Medallion amid a backdrop of banners representing the Health Science Center’s campuses across South Texas.

"I think all of us who are here today sense that in 30 years, future generations will be talking about Dr. Cigarroa, about the third president of this institution, and the days when he roamed the halls," Regent Krier said.

Dr. Cigarroa is the only chief executive of a U.S. health sciences university to continue an active schedule as a pediatric transplant surgeon. He also fosters the Health Science Center’s role as a leading contributor to San Antonio’s biosciences sector – now an $8 billion a year industry.

"He is doing an excellent job," said former Gov. Dolph Briscoe. "His enthusiasm and work ethic are contagious. Under his direction, the university will continue to bring the finest medical care to some of the most underserved areas of the state."

Dr. Cigarroa was an honors student at Yale University. He obtained his medical degree at the UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, where professors say he established a legacy of excellence. "He was one of the greatest students I have had in 30 years of teaching," said Nobel Laureate Michael Brown, M.D., one of his faculty mentors.

Dr. Cigarroa then completed 12 years of rigorous training at Harvard and Johns Hopkins before returning to South Texas, where his family has practiced medicine for years. His rise to the presidency seems a natural progression in the Cigarroa family. "Although my brother was a clinician first, I am not surprised his career led him to the presidency," said Joaquin Cigarroa, M.D., a cardiologist at UT Southwestern.

Dr. Cigarroa’s grandfather and uncle were noted physicians in the region. His father is a practicing South Texas physician. The Cigarroa family says the secret to success has always been a love of people and a love of medicine – just the right prescription for the ever-evolving Health Science Center.

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Updated 7/30/14