FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 1, 2009
AUSTIN, TX — History was made today in the Rio Grande Valley when Gov. Rick Perry ceremonially signed Senate Bill 98 authored by Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. that sets the area as the location for the University of Texas Health Science Center-South Texas and a not-too-distant future medical school.
In a ceremony held at the Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC) in Harlingen, the Governor took pen to paper giving SB 98 from the 81st Legislature his full approval.
"I thank Gov. Perry for having made the trip to be with us today on one of our most historic occasions," said Sen. Lucio. "My colleagues and I who worked so hard to get this bill through appreciated that he didn't just decide to sign the bill in Austin, but instead joined us to celebrate a phenomenal achievement in health care for our area."
As South Texas struggles with a shortage of physicians, particularly in primary care practices, the Senator noted that "the growth and development of the RAHC into a medical school will fulfill this desperate need by giving our local students opportunities to pursue a medical education and by encouraging those future doctors to remain in South Texas."
While the ratio of physicians per 100,000 persons statewide is 68.4 percent, in Starr, Willacy, Hidalgo and Cameron counties it is 30.7, 36.9, 57.7 and 61.5 respectively. One of Sen. Lucio's goals, as well as those of the Valley Delegation, local officials, business leaders and the medical community, is that doctors who study locally will stay to practice locally.
"Without more physicians, there is a distinct possibility that the Valley could struggle to provide basic services in health care in 20 years," he noted.
The Health Science Center will also provide new opportunities in medical research and bio-technology, which are major economic drivers. In 2005, the Association of American Medical Colleges reported that their member medical schools and affiliated teaching hospitals generated $462 million in related economic benefits. Over the next 10 years after its establishment, the economic impact from the Health Science Center-South Texas is expected to be $1.3 billion in business revenue and create 4,700 jobs.
Although the state will not begin funding the medical school until 2015, Sen. Lucio said the six years "will give us ample time to prepare and take the additional steps to create a full-fledged, free standing medical school."
"I feel as though we hit a home run but it will take many more games to make it to the big leagues, so we've got out work cut out for us," said Sen. Lucio. "To those who never believed this day would come, I remind you that it came only through concerted effort and cooperation, and I invite everyone locally and at the state level to continue working to achieve our goal of funding and developing the University of Texas Health Science Center-South Texas and our forthcoming medical school.
"A medical school in South Texas will not only provide medical education opportunities and expanded health care services, but it is a gift to our community and our prosperity," he added.