Lucio Masthead Graphic
February 3, 2006
Contact: Doris Sanchez, Press Secretary
(512) 463-0127
RAHC already proves successful and beneficial to area

In less than four years, the Medical Education Division of the Regional Academic Health Center, or RAHC, has graduated two sets of medical students and is about to graduate a third. A total of 47 medical students will have graduated so far.

Based on the enormous success of the Medical Education Division of the RAHC, I am extremely excited about construction plans that have already been approved by the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA) for a second building at the Harlingen site.

The second building in Harlingen will serve as the General Clinical Research Center (GCRC), which will function as an extension to the GCRC in San Antonio. I believe that the Research Center in Harlingen will attract top-notch research faculty to the area, which will be followed by an even larger student body.

I am proud to report that to date, all 47 graduates who have studied at the RAHC have passed their Medical Board examinations and have secured residency positions in leading institutions all over the country. Residency is the final step before a medical student becomes a full-fledged doctor.

The RAHC is a medical education and research program that functions through the University of Texas System. Through the management of UTHSCSA, the RAHC provides undergraduate and graduate clinical education and residency training.

In 1997, I passed legislation that instructed the University of Texas System to create the RAHC in the lower Rio Grande Valley. The RAHC was established to cultivate new medical training opportunities in South Texas to help address the area's chronic shortage of medical professionals.

The RAHC's association with UTHSCSA allows its programs to train a large number of students, while sparing the enormous expense associated with the formation of a brand new medical school.

Individuals studying at the RAHC have access to state-of-the-art classrooms, a medical library, and computer and administrative resources, all of which support the work of students and residents alike.

In my 20 years as a state legislator, one of the proudest moments of my career occurred in 2002, when the RAHC first opened the doors of its Medical Education Division. The construction of the facility was financed through an allocation of $30 million in tuition revenue bonds. This Division provides medical students from the Health Science Center with an opportunity to complete their clinical rotations in Harlingen. Clinical rotations are a key aspect of an education in medicine because they provide students with supervised hands-on experience with real patients.

Fortunately, many RAHC graduates have chosen to remain in the Valley for their residency training and are completing internal medicine programs at Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen. These students are incredibly important to the Valley, since they are familiar with the needs of area residents and help offset the region's physician shortage.

In addition to the Harlingen site, the Hidalgo County Medical Research Division in Edinburg is also very close to becoming functional. The facility will allow UTHSCSA faculty to join the efforts of faculty from UT-Pan American to further their research on diseases and illnesses that disproportionately affect residents along the Texas/Mexico border.

Ten years ago, when we first began to discuss plans for the RAHC, it was difficult to know where to begin. Today the RAHC is a reality that has far exceeded our every expectation. The RAHC is important for individuals in the LRGV for so many reasons. Its success proves that with proper financial support, the Valley possesses the capability and the will to create and expand top-notch learning institutions. Not only does the RAHC symbolize the ingenuity and intellectual capital in the Valley, it proves our ability to collaborate with others to build something that will benefit everyone.

The unwavering vision and support of the University of Texas Board of Regents has nurtured the construction and expansion of the RAHC every step of the way. Major consideration is already underway to erect a third building in Harlingen for medical education and research. This forward thinking and planning process will make the RAHC a major medical asset not just for the Valley, but for the state of Texas as a whole.

I continue to pledge all of my support to the RAHC, its students and to everyone at Valley Baptist Medical Center, and at the UT System who make its operation possible.

As always, if you have any input or questions regarding these or other matters, please do not hesitate to contact Doris Sanchez, my press secretary, 512-463-0385. Kate Volti, policy analyst, handles this issue for Sen. Lucio.