A letter from the dean – UTRGV School of Medicine

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When You Come To A Fork In The Road, Take It …

“When I woke up this morning, I dragged a sensor across my head and found my cells at night had gone awry. For some reason, cancerous cells were going amuck on my 120th birthday. Confirming the findings, my tri-corder rid me of my neoplasm in seconds. I then boarded my inflatable starship at           ‘Just Read the Instructions’ to start the day with the first of 10 pan-galactic house calls.”

How is that for 2115 Rio Grande Valley medicine! It has all the makings of sci-fi but not too far from reality, maybe a 100 years from now. Not all that unbelievable like the unbelievably fast year that has passed since Susan and I were warmly welcomed to the Valley. And yes, we are glad that when we came to that fork in the road, we took it. As we celebrate our first RGV year, we have been blessed with many blessings. Let’s count them …

We begin with the hospitals in the Valley’s cities – all working with us to establish on-site training and residency programs for our first cohort of 50 medical students, who will begin classes in fall 2016. They joined us in our efforts to attain accreditation of our undergraduate medical education program by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, our MD degree program by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, our residency programs by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, and our continuing professional education initiatives also have to have approval from the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education … You get the picture. With their support, they are part of the new culture of excellence in medical education in the Valley.

Another blessing is our faculty. I could not have asked for a better cadre of scholars than those at UTRGV. The accreditation work is grueling – yet all agree, it is equally, if not more, invigorating. All the faculty is committed to our goal of providing education that is state-of-the-art in terms of the advancing the science of medicine with technology in concert with a humanistic approach.

An added blessing is all the individual investments and philanthropic foundation support we have been the beneficiaries of. Within weeks of my arrival, Dr. William C. Head, M.D., a distinguished orthopedic surgeon from Dallas, granted the medical school its first major contribution – a $600,000 gift to establish the Jean Marie Rodriguez-Ayers Scholarship – to benefit UTRGV’s inaugural class of medical students. Others followed and in one year, we are 40% to our goal for a debt-free inaugural class.

With a combined $4,523,342 in grants from Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation, Methodist Healthcare Ministries, H-E-B, United Health Foundation fostering interprofessional, team based care and our research initiatives, we are off to a great start. Now add the $4,750,000 from Hidalgo County, and the cities of McAllen, Edinburg, Mission and Pharr to support our medical school programs to maintain its high level of excellence and expand promising programs to build the medical school of the future, our learning environment will be second to none.

On the day I was announced, I said what I said…and meant what I said.

“I am excited and humbled by this tremendous opportunity to build the UTRGV School of Medicine into a world-class educational center. The chance to build a medical school from the ground up in a region as richly diverse and wonderful as South Texas is a dream come true”

Thank you for the honor of serving you.

Dr. Francisco Fernandez is the inaugural dean of the School of Medicine and Vice President for Medical Affairs for The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. He was introduced to the valley in February of 2014.