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UT System launches UT Education and Research Center at Laredo to offer new health profession certifications and degrees

UTHealth Houston, UT Health San Antonio and UTSA will lead programs

The University of Texas System is expanding comprehensive degree and certification programs in Laredo to better serve the health care and educational needs of one of the fastest-growing regions of Texas.

The new UT Education and Research Center at Laredo will offer programs taught by faculty from UT San Antonio, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and UT Health Science Center at Houston. Degrees and certificates will focus on a variety of health care and public health professions needed to augment the region’s health care workforce and address the need for more health care professionals throughout Texas.

The UT System hosted a dedication of the new center Tuesday to provide community members and prospective students an opportunity to learn more about the programs being offered. The new UT Center at Laredo is located at the former UT Health San Antonio Laredo Regional Campus at 1937 E. Bustamante St. near the Laredo Medical Center.

Senator Judith Zaffirini, a lifelong Laredoan who has long championed initiatives to enhance access to higher education and health care, authored and passed legislation that transferred management of the regional campus from UT Health San Antonio to the UT System to increase research and education opportunities and involvement by multiple UT institutions. The UT System Board of Regents approved the plan in August.

As part of the legislation, which was sponsored in the House of Representatives by Reps. Richard Peña Raymond and Tracy King, the UT System will receive a state appropriation of $2.4 million to operate the center and support its degree programs.

Senator Zaffirini also secured an additional $4.8 million in new state funding to establish programs to be offered at the UT Center at Laredo.

"Making higher education more accessible and affordable not only benefits students, but also ensures the vitality of our region’s health and economic future," Zaffirini said. “Our new collaboration with the UT System and the potential of collaborating with its impressive health and academic institutions is exciting and promising. We also hope to renew and enrich our collaborative efforts with Texas A&M International University.”

UT System Chancellor James B. Milliken said that the region has seen significant economic expansion, and more diverse employment opportunities and health care professionals are needed to serve the growing population. The population of Laredo has doubled in the last 30 years, and the city is now the largest inland port in the United States. In addition, a third of Laredo’s population is under the age of 18.

“By bringing together three strong UT institutions, we will develop homegrown talent that will enhance the health of South Texas for years to come,” Milliken said. “Laredo is a city of opportunity, and it’s the ideal time to expand the UT mission there. We are profoundly grateful to Senator Zaffirini for sponsoring this effort and to the many health and community leaders who aspired to bring more educational opportunities to the region.”

In addition to Milliken, Zaffirini and Raymond, community members attending Tuesday’s dedication heard from UTSA President Taylor Eighmy; UTHealth Houston President Giuseppe N. Colasurdo; Sudha Seshadri, director of the Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases at UT Health San Antonio; Gerald Schwebel, chair of the Regional Campus Advisory Council; Laredo Council Member Mercurio Martinez; and Adriana Nunemaker, the new executive director of the UT Center at Laredo.

Nunemaker is a native of Laredo and has worked in education and health care for more than 25 years. Most recently she served as dean of the Laredo College South Campus. Nunemaker will work directly with UT institutions and lead the administrative functions necessary for them to carry out their academic, research, and clinical programs at the UT Center at Laredo.

More than 150 community members attended the dedication. Students, faculty and staff from health sciences programs at Laredo area high schools were invited to explore educational exhibits and learn more about new degrees that will be available to students and practitioners who live in the region:

  • UTSA, which already has a partnership with Laredo College to help community college students transfer seamlessly to the university, will offer a certificate in community health and a bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies and health leadership.
  • The UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics located in Houston will expand its accelerated master’s program options to offer graduate certificates in biomedical informatics, health data science, public health informatics and additional programs that use data to help improve human health. UTHealth’s School of Biomedical Informatics is the first national program at a university devoted exclusively to graduate education in health informatics. In addition, UTHealth plans to offer training and professional development for local health care providers and robust community engagement programs.
  • UT Health San Antonio launched a physician assistant program this summer and continues to develop new opportunities in research, dental education and care, and memory care.

The UT Center at Laredo will build on a commitment to serve the greater region that began in 1993 when UT Health San Antonio established the Mid Rio Grande Border Area Health Education Center to serve six counties with a variety of education, research and training programs to improve health care quality and delivery.

In 1999, Senator Zaffirini authored the legislation to establish the UT Health San Antonio Laredo Regional Campus. As part of this effort, UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry students receive clinical instruction at sites throughout the Mid Rio Grande Border community and provide dental care to thousands of residents each year.

The new UT Center at Laredo includes two buildings, the D.D. Hachar Building, which opened in 2002, and a second building that opened in 2007.

“Today, we take a major step forward as we mark the beginning of a new era for our academic, research and clinical health care work here in Laredo,” Milliken said. “The new UT Center at Laredo will equip the next generation with the skills they need to care for our elders, build opportunity for the young, and create a healthier Laredo and a stronger Texas.”

About The University of Texas System

For more than 130 years, The University of Texas System has been committed to improving the lives of Texans and people all over the world through education, research and health care. With 13 institutions, an enrollment of more than 243,000 students and an operating budget of $23.4 billion (FY 2022), the UT System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States. UT institutions produce more than 64,000 graduates annually and award more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees and more than half of its medical degrees. Collectively, UT-owned and affiliated hospitals and clinics accounted for more than 8.6 million outpatient visits and almost 1.8 million hospital days in 2020. UT institutions also are among the most innovative in the world, collectively ranking No. 4 for most U.S. patents granted in 2020, and the UT System is No. 1 in Texas and No. 2 in the nation in federal research expenditures. The UT System also is one of the largest employers in Texas, with more than 21,000 faculty – including Nobel laureates and members of the National Academies – and more than 85,000 health care professionals, researchers and support staff.

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