Health Science Center to break ground on new Edinburg center

By Tricia Lynn Silva
San Antonio Business Journal
September 30, 2002

Plans are underway to start construction of a new research facility in Edinburg.

The project, which will fall under the oversight of the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, is the third of three new facilities being built as part of the development of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC).

The new Edinburg facility will house part of the medical research division of the RAHC. It will be located on 12 acres of land adjacent to the University of Texas Pan American campus, says Richard A. Garcia, executive director of the Center for South Texas Programs, which oversees the RAHC.

The bulk of the facility will be geared toward basic research - especially related to infectious and emerging diseases that affect the Texas/Mexico border population, Garcia continues. It will also house an extension of the College of Pharmacy, which is based at the University of Texas-Austin campus. Specifically the Pharmacy College in Edinburg will be aimed at students pursuing a Ph.D. in pharmacology, Garcia says.

"Because of all the new drugs and biochemistry issues, the medical industry is pushing for a more sophisticated knowledge of how pharmacology work," Garcia says.

The research facility in Edinburg will be a two-story 46,700-square-foot building, Garcia continues. The first floor of the building will consist primarily of office space, although there will be some research labs; the majority of the labs will be on the second floor.

Included in the project will be a large-animal research facility. This is significant, given that there are currently no large-animal research centers in the Valley area, Garcia adds.

Construction will likely begin this fall, and should last for about 16 to 18 months. The price tag for developing the center, Garcia says, is $20 million. That money will come from the Permanent University Fund.

Background

Development of the RAHC was authorized by the 75th Texas Legislature, which also authorized the University of Texas System to establish and operate the program.

There are three divisions under the RAHC: medical education, medical research and public health.

The UT System designated oversight of the medical education and medical research divisions to the Health Science Center here. These two divisions have been set up as geographically separated campuses of San Antonio's Health Science Center. Those campuses will fall under the academic oversight of the Health Science Center.

The new Edinburg facility will fall under the medical research division. In June of this year, the facility for the medical education division of the RAHC was opened in Harlingen.

Another new building also came online this past summer on the campus of the University of Texas at Brownsville. This facility falls under the public health division of the RAHC. The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston's School of Public Health oversees the public health division of the RAHC.

In terms of our Health Science Center's approach to the RAHC, UT officials call it a "community-based" model. For Garcia, that means hiring physicians already practicing in the Valley to serve on the faculty of the medical and research facilities - thus giving students in the RAHC a "real world knowledge" of the border communities.

And by being adjacent to the UT Pan Am campus, it is Garcia's hope that students going through that school may be encouraged to pursue degrees in medical research as well.