$25 million for main Medical Education Division and construction of
$15 million for Hidalgo County Medical Research Division and construction
$5 million for Medical Education Division extension and construction of
$5 million for Public Health Division and construction of facility.
We have all read in
the newspapers and heard on television about the newly created Regional
Academic Health Center—or RAHC. Following are some key questions about
the status of this medical education and research program that will have
such a beneficial impact on the South Texas/Border Region.
The Texas Legislature used the term “Regional
Academic Health Center” in a law which authorized The Board of Regents
of The University of Texas System to establish a medical education and
research program serving Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr and Willacy Counties.
The Legislature specified that, together with a community teaching
hospital, the RAHC “may be used to provide undergraduate clinical
education, graduate education, including residency training programs, or
other levels of medical education.” As authorized in the law, the
Regents assigned management of the RAHC’s programs to The University of
Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, with the exception of public
health initiatives, which will be the responsibility of
The University of Texas School of Public Health-Houston.
What is the relationship between
the RAHC and the Health Science Center’s Medical School?
The RAHC will be an outreach effort of the Medical
School in San Antonio, not a semi-independent or stand-alone campus.
Why is there
going to be a RAHC? Couldn’t there just be a new medical school started
in the Lower Rio Grande Valley on a stand-alone basis?
Starting a new medical school takes many years and
many millions of dollars, and requires the presence of a large number of
physicians, biomedical scientists, physician specialty training programs,
laboratories, classrooms, and patients having a full range of diseases,
injuries, and other health conditions. Harlingen and McAllen may be
relatively well-supported in terms of numbers of physicians, but
statistics show that other areas in Hidalgo and Cameron Counties—as well
as all of Starr and Willacy Counties—do have significant shortages.
Because of this, the Federal Government has declared the four counties to
be medically underserved. Also, there are only two physician residency
(specialty) training programs in the Valley, both training family practice
doctors. Using the Medical School in San Antonio as a launching pad allows
the creation of specialty training programs and the training of medical
students without waiting for all the other conditions to be met.
that components of the RAHC will be in more than one place. Where will
those components be and what will take place at each location?
In the law, the Legislature indicated that the RAHC
could consist of facilities throughout the region. In implementing that
law, the Regents specified four RAHC facilities: one each in Harlingen and
McAllen for medical education, one in Edinburg for medical research, and
one in Brownsville for public health education.
Harlingen also will be the site of the RAHC headquarters. Funds
have been allocated for buildings in these locations, provided that each
community also contributes some financial support.
construction of the RAHC buildings begin?
Planning for construction in Harlingen is underway.
The bidding process for architect and builder services is in
motion, and the Regents will be asked to approve a building design in
February. Construction should
begin shortly afterward with a scheduled completion date late in 2001. The
Brownsville facility is on roughly the same schedule. Planning for the
Hildalgo County Research Division Building in Edinburg will begin this
fall, and discussions are taking place concerning activities in McAllen.
Who is the
leader of the RAHC in the Valley? When
will we be able to meet him/her?
A Regional Dean appointed by the Medical School in San
Antonio will head the RAHC and will oversee activities at all RAHC
campuses except the one in Brownsville. A nationwide search process is
underway, and candidates are being screened and interviewed by a search
committee made up of members from San Antonio and Valley communities. It
is expected that the new Regional Dean will take office early next year.
When will the RAHC begin operation?
The Harlingen component of the RAHC is expected to be
operational in mid-2002. By that time, the building will have been
completed and equipped, faculty will be on hand, accreditation for medical
student and some resident training programs will have been obtained,
medical students and residents will have been identified, and support
staff should be in place. The Brownsville facility has a similar
completion schedule. Operational dates in Edinburg and McAllen have yet to
Where will the students come from? Will they be from the RAHC cities?
How long will their studies last?
RAHC students and residents may come from Valley
communities, but it is not a requirement. Third- and fourth-year students
will have completed their first two years of education at the Medical
School campus in San Antonio, and will be based in the Valley for the
final two years of training leading to the M.D. degree. The residents will
have graduated from medical schools throughout the nation, and will come
to the Valley through a national matching process which matches up
training programs with individuals who want to come to the Valley for the
specialty training offered there. Residents will go through three-, four-,
or five-year training programs, depending on the specialty.
Will medical students who grew up in the Valley be able to get their
third and fourth years of training at the RAHC?
Medical students who grew up in the Valley may choose
to get their third and fourth years of training at the RAHC and its
affiliated teaching facilities, provided that they complete their first
two years of medical school at The University of Texas Health Science
Center at San Antonio. Accreditation rules make it virtually impossible to
take students from other medical schools for the final two years of
training at the RAHC.
Where will the
RAHC faculty come from? Won’t
they compete with local Valley physicians?
The faculty will be made up mostly of physicians who
are already practicing in Valley communities.
They will continue to practice as they do now, but with part-time
or volunteer faculty appointments and training, they will be able to teach
residents and students at the same time that they see patients.
Full-time faculty will not be brought in unless there is a key
position with educational responsibilities that needs to be filled on a
full-time basis, or unless physicians must be brought in to provide
specialized expertise that is not otherwise available. The intent is to
make use of the knowledge and skills of community physicians and avoid the
possibility of competition.
Who will award
the M.D. degree to graduating RAHC students?
RAHC medical students will be awarded the M.D. degree
by The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.