The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

UTRGV School of Medicine

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’m possible” Audrey Hepburn

My all-time favorite actress! The American Film Society ranks her among the greatest film legends of all time. Both the BBC and TIME ranked her as the most naturally beautiful woman of all time. I loved her energy, commitment and intellectual prowess. Since 1954, she gave of her time in humanitarian initiatives and is remembered by many in the world not by her roles but by her work in the most disadvantaged communities throughout the world. Top notch all around! 

As I was pondering life while in Austin presenting our medical school's budget, I wondered what Ms. Hepburn would have thought about the Rio Grande Valley. I came to the conclusion she would have felt right at home in the Valley. For one, she spoke Spanish fluently and frequented Central and South America.  On behalf of UNICEF, she brought immunization and clean water programs to many communities and would probably want the same for the colonias. But what concerned her most was famine. One of her other quotes, "I have a broken heart. I feel desperate. I can't stand the idea that two million people are in imminent danger of starving to death".  What would she say if she visited the Valley? She would likely try and find State Representative Terry Canales in Hidalgo County and Dr. Rose Gowen in Brownsville and join with them to make things happen to relieve the suffering from hunger in our communities.

The same could be said about The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and how many in our community are hungry for higher education. Hunger and determination for higher and professional education are alive and well in the RGV, and we are in the home stretch to constitute both UTRGV and the School of Medicine. Whether or not you were raised in el Valle Magico, we have a responsibility to resonate with our community to engineer our future. Whether it's the M2M (middle school to medical school) program or the creation of a hospital district, we have the drive, the hunger, and tenacity to make it happen. After all, isn't that the definition of "ganas"? We are UTRGV - one of a kind - just like the Valley - where self-reliance reigns - a super player in our backyard dedicated to our future. 

So what is next for RGV? For UTRGV? 

In my last newsletter, I introduced the idea of a think tank to solve student debt and related issues. Well, Ms. Hepburn would likely say we need to extend that to include biodiversity; a public transportation network; with our diverse galleries and artists, develop a "culturati" mapping of our region with intent to extend to Texas and beyond; include an annual show for both our new artists and an annual "New Hispanic Artist of the Year" award; along with the new Port Isabel culinary institute develop an annual tex-mex eats award focused on culinary healthy-culturally syntonic treats; engage world cyclists in an annual trail across the Valley's colonias but only after creating a network of colonia foodpods (sustainable farms with access to healthy produce and foods) where they could stop and savor from while hydrating with clean water, and lots more. 

And what does all this have to do with the School of Medicine? On April 23, 2015, an epic moment in the history of the Rio Grande Valley will be when the Texas Higher Coordinating Board meets and votes to approve our School of Medicine's MD Degree program. I will be there along with President Guy Bailey and I know I won’t be the only one hoopin’ and' hollerin' that day!

The reason these activities are important is that we want to be a strong partner for a safer and healthier community. UTRGV already goes beyond the usual health screenings and fairs and community education – we believe prevention and early detection provide the best approach to maintaining health and avoiding disease. But we want to improve health and well-being by dedicating our scientists, students, resident physicians, faculty and interprofessional health teams, to delivering top notch health services in our community – just like our STITCH (South Texas Interprofessional Team Collaborative for Health) program in the colonias. 

You know, GE has the motto “we bring good things to life”. UTRGV’s motto is “we bring total health to life”. We are vecinos (neighbors) - (click here to view clinic settings) so be on the lookout because just like movies, we are coming soon to a location near you …

Dr. Francisco Fernandez 
Inaugural Dean, School of Medicine and Vice President for Medical Affairs