Mini-Medical School puts spotlight on women’s health

Graciela Cigarroa

Graciela Cigarroa knows that each year more women than men die of heart disease – 67,000 more. “Since we tend to think of heart disease as a man’s disease, many women are surprised to find that it is has been the leading cause of death in women for the last 20 years,” she said.

Mrs. Cigarroa, a Laredo-born attorney, is a champion of women’s health initiatives. That’s one reason she was selected to open the Health Science Center’s four-session Mini-Medical School on May 2. This year’s Mini-Medical School, a free gift from the Health Science Center to the community, will focus on women’s health issues. The annual event is designed to motivate high school students and inform the general public about health care careers and important health issues.

The Mini-Medical School will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. on four consecutive Monday evenings (May 2, 9, 16, 23). Two topics will be discussed each session, beginning with diabetes and menopause, followed by obesity and heart disease, then adolescent health and cancer, and concluding with health literacy and a report on a national center of excellence in women’s health.

A health fair will be offered each night at 6 p.m. and the lectures start at 7 p.m.

The explosive growth of diabetes in the Hispanic population is affecting family life and cultural traditions along the border. Today more grandparents are playing a major role in bringing up children, which makes staying in good health an absolute necessity. “Type 2 diabetes is largely preventable,” Mrs. Cigarroa said. “Controlling diabetes is one way to extend the lives of grandparents, so they can spend time with their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

Mrs. Cigarroa, who graduated from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio and received a Master of Law degree from Boston University, was happy to return to South Texas 10 years ago with her husband, Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., president of the Health Science Center. “After being away so long, moving back to Texas let us give our children the opportunity to know their grandparents and grow closer,” she said.

Mrs. Cigarroa is a past chair of the annual KLRN-TV Women’s Health Conference and continues to serve on the conference planning committee. “As women, we seem to place the needs of others first and forget to take care of ourselves,” she noted. “But the healthier we are, the better we are able to take care of those we love. Women are learning new ways to improve the health of themselves and their families.” Being physically active for 30 minutes a day is one way women can reduce weight, control blood pressure and improve their health if they are diabetic.

The Mini-Medical School helps to encourage the next generation of physicians, nurses, researchers and health care professionals. As the demand for these is expected to soar as the baby boomer generation ages, the Health Science Center wants to attract students who are interested in health care professions and let them know that financial aid is available.

“High school students seem so sophisticated and smarter these days,” Mrs. Cigarroa said. The strong science departments that have helped some of them develop interests in science and medicine also enable and encourage them to set ambitious career goals, as she has observed with her older daughter.

Advance registration for the Mini-Medical School is requested. Please call (210) 567-4445. A brochure is available at

The Mini-Medical School will be broadcast via video teleconferencing to the Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen and the Laredo Extension Campus, both are campuses of the Health Science Center. Audiences at both locations will be able to participate in interactive question-and-answer periods through a satellite downlink.

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