The Rio Grande Valley should concentrate its efforts on getting one medical school for South Texas instead of advancing dueling proposals, state senator Eddie Lucio, Jr., said in McAllen last week.
The University of Texas System is working to develop its Regional Health Center in Harlingen into a four-year medical school, thanks to a measure approved by the state legislature in 2009, the Rio Grande Guardian‘s Steve Taylor reported. But earlier this month, Texas A&M University Chancellor John Sharp visited the McAllen Chamber of Commerce and state senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa used the opportunity to push for a Texas A&M medical school in the McAllen area.
“[UT and A&M] both have different approaches in the way they educate medical students,” Hinojosa told the Guardian. “I don’t think [a medical school in Hidalgo County] would interfere at all [with a medical school in Cameron County].”
But Lucio thinks it is “totally unrealistic” that two new schools be built so close together. “I wish we could have ten medical schools but the truth is that I do not think the legislature will even think of funding two medical schools, 30, 40 miles from one another, regardless of what institutions they belong to,” Lucio, D-Brownsville, told the Guardian. (Texas has eight public medical schools sprinkled throughout the state.)
On Twitter, state Rep. Aaron Pena called for the Rio Grande Valley to pull together behind one proposal:
This community has come too far to have the Valley Medical School derailed by a “Friday Night Football” mentality. #rgv #txlege
— Aaron Pena (@AaronForTexas) February 27, 2012
While Lucio sees no need for two schools in the Valley, he argues fervently that at least one is necessary. Senator Kirk Watson’s proposed that a new medical school be built in Austin, an idea Lucio has criticized. “We may not have as much money, but we have more need,” Lucio told the Texas Tribune‘s Thanh Tan, who explained the senator’s argument why South Texas should be next in line:
State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, has long steered the effort to open a medical school in the poverty-stricken Rio Grande Valley. Lucio is keen on reminding others that numerous higher education entities have indicated that South Texas should be next in line for a four-year medical institution. He cited statistics showing the area’s population — which includes a high concentration of low-income residents and veterans — suffers from a higher incidence of diabetes, cancer and obesity compared with the rest of Texas.