Mario E. Ramirez, M.D., vice president for South Texas programs at the Health Science Center and a former member of the UT System Board of Regents, spent more than 50 years practicing family medicine in Starr County. He since has invested a dozen more years heading an innovative pipeline program that motivates interested young people to enter health professional careers.
So, it was fitting Feb. 15 in Starr County when a new elementary school was celebrated: the Dr. Mario E. Ramirez Elementary School in Rio Grande City. Equally appropriate, the event showcased students attending the school, including a special song dedicated to Dr. Ramirez from the pre-kinder, kindergarten and first-grade students.
Dr. Ramirez was born in Starr County and attended high school in Roma, graduating at age 16. He attended The University of Texas, graduating in a little over two years, and was accepted at the University of Tennessee medical school at the age of 18. During his residency program at Shreveport Charity Hospital, he met, and eventually married, nursing student Sarah Aycock and brought her back to Starr County to establish their home and medical practice.
Dr. Ramirez’s appointments and honors include president of Texas Medical Association (the first Hispanic to serve in this capacity), Family Doctor of the Year (announced by President Jimmy Carter), vice chairman of the Committee on Health Care of the Poor (American Medical Association), regent of the Military Medical School in Bethesda (an appointment by President Ronald Reagan), and regent of The University of Texas System (an appointment by Gov. Bill Clements).
Dr. Ramirez joined the Health Science Center in 1995 and has accepted the challenge to get more students from the Texas/Mexico border into health professions schools. Since the inception of his Med-Ed Program in 1996, he has championed that cause. Last year, 60 students were accepted into Texas medical schools from the border region, more than double the number accepted when Med-Ed began.
“The naming of the Dr. Mario E. Ramirez Elementary School in Rio Grande City is a most appropriate honor, as he has been a lifelong advocate of education,” said Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., president of the Health Science Center. “Although Dr. and Mrs. Ramirez have moved to McAllen to be near their children, Dr. Ramirez spent the majority of his life in Starr County, and his heart remains in the county of his birth.”