Second building signifies expansion of HSC’s commitment to Laredo

(L-R) Nasser Momayezi of Texas A&M International University, Sister Rosemary Welsh of Sisters of Mercy Health System, and Sabas Zapata III of Falcon International Bank greet each other before the groundbreaking ceremony.

Young people who desire to become health professionals joined distinguished leaders, including Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., president of the Health Science Center, to break ground March 30 for the second building of the Health Science Center’s Laredo Campus Extension.

The theme of the event was the new era of commitment by the Health Science Center to the people of the Mid Rio Grande Border Region. “By constructing the second building of the Laredo Campus Extension, the Health Science Center is demonstrating its long-term commitment to expand health professional education and training programs in the community and the region,” President Cigarroa said. “Our commitment is inspired by Senator Judith Zaffirini’s own steadfast commitment, without which we would not have a Laredo Campus Extension. She courageously authored the legislation that brought this campus to Laredo, and she has been its chief proponent, most recently demonstrated by the $3 million in state funding that her leadership secured for the campus. Her years of dedicated work and great achievements are enabling us to expand many educational programs to Laredo.”

Senator Zaffirini, the event’s special guest speaker, said: “It was my pleasure to pass Senate Bill 1288 by Zaffirini (1999), secure the funding to create the Laredo Campus Extension and obtain $3 million last year for programs. The cooperation and collaboration of so many organizations and communities on this campus make a tremendous impact throughout South Texas. The expansion of the Health Science Center in Laredo will mean more health educational opportunities for future physicians, dentists, nurses and allied health professionals for our region and greater access to community resources. I am proud of this center and of all the partners who collaborate here. Together we celebrate this great new day of progress for our community.”

The second building, to be called the Teaching/Learning Lab Building, will be situated behind the Health Science Center’s D.D. Hachar Building at 1937 Bustamante St. Plans call for an L-shaped structure and creation of a courtyard linking it to the Hachar Building. The new building as designed will have a total project cost of $12.7 million and 28,961 square feet.

The designer is Kell Munoz Architects, a firm whose projects include the AT&T Center, home of the San Antonio Spurs. The builder is Bartlett Cocke General Contractors. Substantial completion date is October 2007, said James D. Kazen, executive vice president for administration at the Health Science Center.

State legislators, Laredo hospital officials and Health Science Center officials broke ground at the Health Science Center’s Laredo extension campus last week.

“This new building will be a community resource, not just for faculty or students,” President Cigarroa said. “It will be a comprehensive regional learning center. In addition to classrooms and distance learning facilities, the building will house a health-related library to serve not only practitioners and health professions students, but consumers of health care who might need information on any number of subjects, among them diabetes, cancer and heart disease.”

Under President Cigarroa’s leadership, the Health Science Center is targeting the needs of Laredo and the Mid Rio Grande Border Region. Working hand in hand with some of Laredo’s foremost leaders through the President’s Laredo Advisory Council, established more than a year ago, Dr. Cigarroa and campus leaders are examining the community’s needs and the university’s resources, and matching resources to needs.

“We are not duplicating, but we are looking at areas of need that have not been met, and then at our resources,” President Cigarroa said. “We are working with local entities such as the Gateway Community Health Center, Mercy Ministries of Laredo and the Laredo Health Department to enhance Laredo-based training opportunities. The teachers are Laredo practitioners.”

Laredo expansion will ensure more students are trained to be keenly aware of the problems that are unique to the South Texas Border Region. “Our students will benefit from this excellent training environment, and Laredo and the region will benefit as more of our students elect to practice there because they have become familiar with the area,” President Cigarroa said.

The Health Science Center already is involved in Laredo through educational programs including respiratory care, occupational therapy, dentistry, dental hygiene and environmental medicine. Soon, its School of Nursing will begin a program to enable Laredo’s licensed vocational nurses to get their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees and become registered nurses.

The South Texas Environmental Education and Research Program (STEER) has provided intensive four-week rotations in Laredo for 10 years. The rotations now attract public health students, physicians, nurses and others to Laredo from Harvard, Stanford and Johns Hopkins, to name a few of the universities nationwide. Four of the STEER Program’s former students were recognized at the groundbreaking ceremony.

The Health Science Center’s Med/Ed office in Laredo directs young people to primarily medical and dental careers, while the Health Careers Opportunities Program (HCOP) coordinated by the Health Science Center directs youngsters to all health careers. At the close of the ceremony, several Med/Ed students released confetti to celebrate the future promise signified by the Teaching/Learning Lab Building.

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