250 leaders commemorate RAHC’s 10th anniversary

HARLINGEN (June 14, 2012) — An estimated 250 community and academic leaders gathered in Harlingen June 14 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC), part of the School of Medicine at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio.

The event with the festive theme — ¡Viva! RAHC — attracted community leaders, elected officials and RAHC faculty, along with graduates, students and residents of the School of Medicine. The school operates the Harlingen and Edinburg campuses of the RAHC.

“All of you know the importance of what was formed here and officially dedicated 10 years ago on June 28, 2002,” said William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP, president of the Health Science Center. “To date more than 1,000 third- and fourth-year students in the School of Medicine have received clinical training at the RAHC. In addition the internal medicine residency program at the RAHC has graduated 42 residents, and nearly half of them are practicing in the Valley today.”

Francisco González-Scarano, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine and vice president for medical affairs at the Health Science Center, praised the RAHC’s immeasurable value to students, residents and Valley patients. “RAHC-trained physicians are settling in the Valley to practice and thus are having a positive effect on health care in the region,” he said. “Some of those doctors are Valley natives who, thanks to the RAHC, were able to do part of their training close to home. Others were introduced to the Valley through the RAHC and opted to stay after training. Regardless of where students practice, the RAHC offers a unique educational experience, and our students tell us how much they value the time they spend there.”

Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., primary author of Senate Bill 606, which created the RAHC in 1997, received a framed rendering of the Harlingen campus from Kenneth I. Shine, M.D., executive vice chancellor for health affairs with The University of Texas System. The memento, compliments of Randy Whittington of Harlingen, is signed by many notable individuals who had a hand in the formation of the RAHC. Sen. Juan Hinojosa, a state representative at the time, sponsored SB 606 in the House. In 2009 Sen. Lucio was primary author of Senate Bill 98, which authorizes the UT System Board of Regents to convert the RAHC into the Valley’s medical school in the near future. Sponsors in the House included Rep. Eddie Lucio III. Both bills passed with strong support of the Valley/South Texas delegation.

Leonel Vela, M.D., M.P.H., founding regional dean of the RAHC, announced the center’s first academic endowment, which honors the memory of former Harlingen Mayor Bill Card. Donors this spring contributed more than $100,000 to the fund. “We thought it a wonderful time to pay tribute to Col. Card and permanently recognize his role in the establishment of the RAHC,” Dr. Vela said. “With permission from the Card family, we created the Colonel H. William Card Jr. Endowed Professorship to ensure that his legacy of advocacy for education and health care for citizens in the Rio Grande Valley lives on.”

President Henrich recognized 17 members of the RAHC 10th Anniversary Blue-Ribbon Committee, many of whom helped establish the Card Professorship. He also singled out the institutional clinical partners — including the three primary partners, the Valley Baptist Health System, Su Clinica Familiar and the VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System — and the more than 200 RAHC faculty throughout the Valley who provide rotation sites for students and residents.

The RAHC is a base of other Health Science Center initiatives, as well, including the South Texas Environmental Education and Research (STEER) Program and the RAHC Clinical Research Unit. The RAHC also includes the Mario E. Ramirez, M.D., Library, which provides informational resources to students, residents and the public, and the RAHC Medical Research Division at Edinburg, home to 12 biomedical research laboratories.

Gov. Rick Perry, who spoke at the 2002 dedication of the RAHC, sent a proclamation of official recognition of the anniversary.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving federal funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled $231 million in fiscal year 2011. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 28,000 graduates. The $736 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit www.uthscsa.edu.

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