SAN ANTONIO (Oct. 31, 2008) — Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., today announced his intention to step down as president of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio in September 2009 after appointment of a successor. Dr. Cigarroa, 50, was appointed eight years ago by the UT System Board of Regents. He became the first Hispanic chief executive of a comprehensive health sciences university in the continental United States, and has continued to practice his medical specialty of transplant surgery part time during his tenure as president.
“It has been one of my great joys to work in this incredible environment for the past eight years as your president, proudly watching the energy of this beloved institution harnessed into incredible endeavors,” Dr. Cigarroa said. “It is my sincere and profound conviction that I can now best heed my calling to serve the medical needs of our community through the practice of pediatric and transplantation surgery. With immense gratification, I will rejoin the great faculty of our Health Science Center to contribute to the mission of our university as a physician and educator.”
Dr. Cigarroa said he is firmly committed to leading the Health Science Center during the 81st Legislative Session, his fifth as president. He reaffirmed this to Kenneth I. Shine, M.D., interim chancellor of the UT System and executive vice chancellor for health affairs, and to community leaders and Health Science Center supporters. “I pledge that I will continue to do my very best as your president until my successor is identified, working closely with our legislators to have a successful 81st Legislative Session, assuring progress on our strategic plan, and continuing to achieve excellence in the mission of our Health Science Center,” he said.
The university’s 8,300 employees and students learned the news today. “Together, we have done remarkable things here in the last eight years,” Dr. Cigarroa said. “It has been my privilege to serve you and the people of Texas as president of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Our mission of teaching, healing, research and service will continue to grow because of our university’s exceptionally dedicated and talented leaders.
“I am steadfast in achieving the goals set out in our strategic plan. There remains much work to be done. Those who do the work — our faculty, staff and students — have my deepest gratitude and respect. They, along with our generous and supportive community, are the reason I am so incredibly optimistic that we will achieve preeminence as we make lives better.”
Dr. Shine said the Cigarroa presidency has been a time of unprecedented growth in the Health Science Center’s research enterprise. Last week, the university announced that external awards had surpassed $200 million for the first time in a 12-month span and that awards from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) had reached $107 million. Those totals were for fiscal year 2008, which ended Aug. 31.
“Francisco has done so much to foster a strong climate for research, not only by building new facilities and fortifying important infrastructure, but by attracting new scientists who are adding to the Health Science Center’s strong research faculty,” Dr. Shine said. “The Health Science Center has been on a trajectory of tremendous growth and accomplishment under Francisco’s leadership. The institution is getting noticed and receiving accolades from around the country.”
The Health Science Center is being noticed within the halls of government, as well. “Dr. Cigarroa has done a remarkable job working with our federal, state, county and city officials,” said The Honorable John T. Montford, chairman of the Health Science Center Development Board. “He is a very effective spokesman for all that the Health Science Center is trying to achieve for the people of San Antonio and South Texas.”
NuStar Energy Chairman Bill Greehey’s family foundation gave the Health Science Center $25 million in January 2007 to provide an endowment for programs in cancer research and to serve chronically ill children and their families. “It was Francisco’s vision to create a future in which the words ‘children’ and ‘cancer’ are never used in the same sentence,” Greehey said. “I wholeheartedly support his vision and I am proud of the great work he has done to develop academic cancer resources in San Antonio, particularly those of the Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute and the Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC). But Francisco will also be remembered for raising the profile of the Health Science Center. Under his watch, it became known as one of the best in the country.”
Development of strong programs of clinical excellence has been another hallmark of the Cigarroa era, Dr. Shine said. These include The Transplant Center, a partnership with the University Health System; specialty clinics at the CTRC, which merged with the Health Science Center on Dec. 17, 2007; and specialty clinics of the School of Medicine faculty practice group. The Health Science Center will have a new $100 million, 250,000-square-foot ambulatory clinic home next summer when the Medical Arts and Research Center opens on Floyd Curl Drive.
Under Dr. Cigarroa’s leadership, the Health Science Center has been one of the most diverse health sciences universities in the nation. Several times, its schools – medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences – have reached the top five in the country in the number of Hispanics graduated. “I couldn’t be prouder that the Health Science Center is educating a diverse student body,” Dr. Cigarroa said.
“Francisco has often stated that no qualified student in the state should ever be turned away from a health professions or science career because of lack of ability to pay,” said Joe R. Long, who with his wife, Teresa Lozano Long, gave $25 million this year to establish an endowment fund for scholarship, research and teaching.
Another key Health Science Center supporter, former Gov. Dolph Briscoe Jr. of Uvalde, recognized President Cigarroa for expanding the Health Science Center’s educational presence along the Texas-Mexico border. Health Science Center campuses now include the Laredo Campus Extension and the Regional Academic Health Center at Harlingen and Edinburg. “At the direction of the Legislature and Board of Regents, Dr. Cigarroa’s efforts in South Texas have increased access to health professions education in the Rio Grande Valley,” Gov. Briscoe said. “Even today those who need health care in the region are starting to benefit.”
The governor has given $9 million to the Health Science Center in memory of his wife, Janey, for cardiology and women’s health. He commended Dr. Cigarroa for recruiting high-caliber clinicians who give families more time with their loved ones suffering from life-changing illness. “He is a consummate physician and compassionate individual. I am pleased to call him a great friend. I am especially pleased that his impressive clinical skills will stay right here at the Health Science Center in San Antonio,” Gov. Briscoe said.
Sen. Judith Zaffirini, Ph.D., who like Dr. Cigarroa is from Laredo, has known the Cigarroa family for many years. She praised Dr. Cigarroa for acting on the Legislature’s direction to build a badly needed health professions education campus in Laredo and for his leadership in ensuring that the Health Science Center enhanced its status as a leader for South Texas, instead of only for San Antonio.
“His support and leadership in extending opportunities for health professions careers throughout are region are impressive,” Sen. Zaffirini said. “By returning graduates to work in the region, the Health Science Center ultimately is improving health care for residents in Laredo, along the border and in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.”
The Board of Regents will begin a national search for Dr. Cigarroa’s successor.
The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is the leading research institution in South Texas and one of the major health sciences universities in the world. With an operating budget of $668 million, the Health Science Center is the chief catalyst for the $15.3 billion biosciences and health care sector in San Antonio’s economy. The Health Science Center has had an estimated $35 billion impact on the region since inception and has expanded to six campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. More than 23,000 graduates (physicians, dentists, nurses, scientists and other health professionals) serve in their fields, including many in Texas. Health Science Center faculty are international leaders in cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, aging, stroke prevention, kidney disease, orthopaedics, research imaging, transplant surgery, psychiatry and clinical neurosciences, pain management, genetics, nursing, dentistry and many other fields. For more information, visit www.uthscsa.edu.