Laredo campus extension speeds toward reality
Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa, president, says things couldn't be looking brighter for the Health Science Center's Laredo extension campus, now well under construction on 10 acres of land near Mercy Regional Hospital and Laredo International Airport.
"The outlook has never been better for our Laredo young people who want to enter health professions and who want to study health issues confronting the Rio Grande Border Region," President Cigarroa said. "The Health Science Center is expanding health education opportunities into South Texas, and this campus is going to be the center of all future related activity in Laredo and the region."
The first campus facility, the $4 million D.D. Hachar Building, is projected to be ready this fall. Construction began last summer. The 20,000-square-foot building is named for the late D.D. Hachar, the prominent Laredo philanthropist and businessman who left a strong legacy of support for Laredo students seeking college educations.
"It is appropriate that the first building is being named for a man who meant so much to the city's young people," President Cigarroa said. "Literally thousands of students in Laredo could not have gotten an education without scholarship money from D.D. Hachar."
The Honorable Judith Zaffirini authored Senate Bill 1288 during the 1999 regular session of the Legislature. "Sponsoring the legislation that created the Laredo campus extension was a labor of love for me," Sen. Zaffirini said. "I have seen young persons from Laredo excel in the health professions and in health research. They make us so proud, and they give us hope that the health needs of our region will be met in the years to come."
President Cigarroa added: "The campus has benefited from the dedication of Senator Zaffirini, who during the last session provided the leadership that resulted in tuition revenue bonds to construct the Hachar Building and a second teaching classroom building. It was a tremendous achievement in light of the scarcity of state resources."
The D.D. Hachar Charitable Trust Fund donated $2 million for the first building. UT System regents accepted the gift in August 2000 in Austin. Vidal M. Treviño, consultant to the D.D. Hachar Trust, celebrated the donation with Health Science Center leaders and the regents, including A.R. (Tony) Sanchez Jr. of Laredo.
In October 2000, leaders again gathered, this time in Laredo, to recognize the regional partnership with the Health Science Center. The Hachar Building will house classrooms and offices for several degree programs offered through UTHSC's School of Allied Health Sciences. Those include baccalaureate programs in respiratory therapy and clinical laboratory sciences, a master's-level program in occupational therapy and certificate programs in emergency medical technology.
Other space is earmarked for offices of programs funded by the South Texas/Border Region Health Education Initiative (STBI) and offices of the Mid Rio Grande Border Region Area Health Education Center. The building will include space for the South Texas Environmental Education and Research program (STEER), meeting and conference rooms for continuing education and seminars, and a technologically advanced library connected to comprehensive electronic databases.
"Working with Senator Zaffirini, the members of the House, Mayor Betty Flores and so many people on this important project has been very rewarding for the region," President Cigarroa said. "We are changing the health education landscape in Laredo and the Rio Grande Border Region. It gives me great satisfaction to be a part of that and to leave this legacy."
If all goes according to schedule, the occupants should be able to move in by late September this year, said James D. Kazen, executive vice president for administration. In addition, a programming committee has been appointed to plan the second building, which may be ready for occupancy by September 2004.
"Laredo did not have a four-year university a decade ago, and now we are fortunate to have two major higher education systems represented in the city," Kazen said. "These component institutions, along with the resources of the community college, offer unprecedented educational opportunities for the citizens of Laredo."
The Health Science Center's extension campus will be a great educational benefit for Laredo-area young people. "It will give them a place for focusing on health careers," President Cigarroa said.