|HARLINGEN, January 31 - A veteran economic and industrial development leader in the Rio Grande Valley wants to see the new UTRGV medical school unite with the best healthcare facilities in Matamoros, Reynosa and Monterrey.
David Allex spoke about the importance of integration at a Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce breakfast event held on Tuesday. He asked a question of the keynote speaker, UT-Brownsville President Juliet Garcia, about the chances of UTRGV strengthening ties with institutions in northern Mexico. He expanded on this theme in an exclusive interview with the Guardian.
“If you look at the private hospital in Matamoros, it is a state of the art hospital. Monterrey has a state of the art medical school and research facility. We need to integrate that, somehow, into what we are doing in the Valley with our new medical school,” Allex told the Guardian.
“We cannot ignore three million people within a 30-minute drive from here. We need to have an international group of people sit down and talk about how we are going to bring together people on both sides of this street with water in it. Think about it this way, our region, with the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo running through it, is nothing but a street with water in it.”
Allex was president and CEO of the Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce for many years. He is the founder of Allex & Associates International and chair of the Cameron County Regional Mobility. Allex specializes in industrial development, marketing, strategic planning and industrial real estate in the Valley and has over 40 years of experience in industrial and economic development. He said he was speaking in a personal capacity.
“As we grow and grow we are integrating our public and private lives with those of our neighbors in northern Mexico. I do not believe we will even recognize the border 20 or 30 years from now,” Allex told the Guardian. He said he suspects the UT System leadership and master planners are privately having discussions on how to better integrate UTRGV programs and their vision for the new university and medical school with their counterpart institutions in northern Mexico.
“I would like to see the new university and medical school forge closer relations with Mexico. We will make a tremendous mistake if we do not look at what we need to be doing to integrate the entire region, the international region, into one single thought process. We would be raising the healthcare standards of everyone in South Texas and northern Mexico. We would be the medical capital of the world. What is wrong with that?”
In her response to Allex’s question about the UTRGV medical school having closer ties with Mexico, President Garcia said the new university needs to “own our geography and be proud of it.” She said the old motto of the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce, ‘By the Border, By the Sea,’ was “not a bad refrain.” And, Garcia pointed out that UTB had recently held the one-day BiNED conference that focused on furthering educational collaborations with Mexican institutions of higher learning.
“We need to own the border, we need to own the Gulf,” Garcia said.
Also in her speech, Garcia told a story about a quarterly meeting of the various UT presidents. At the meeting, UT-San Antonio President Ricardo Romo told Garcia that some of his professors had told him how worried they were about UTRGV becoming as large as UTSA and thus being competitive when it came to hiring top faculty. “I said, that is the best news I have heard,” Garcia said, to loud applause from the audience.
Interviewed afterwards on the subject of UTRGV having closer ties with Mexico than UTB or UT-Pan American have had, Garcia said the new university would think and act regionally.
“Being a portal to the Americas is going to get woven into the DNA of the university. What does that mean? It means that the work that we are going to be able to do university-wide will be aimed at having global relevance,” Garcia told the Guardian.
“In my speech I spoke about the Global South. The Ford Foundation, which I work with, funds marginalized communities in the Global South. Global South countries are ones that have similar characteristics to the Valley, countries such as Vietnam, India, those in South America. We are more like them than, say, Boston, yet we are always comparing ourselves to Boston. Maybe we ought to learn from our neighbors in the Global South.”
Garcia said any research UTRGV does that impacts the region is likely to be relevant to the Global South. “So, when we talk about our research, if we deal with water, or disease, or healthcare, or education, they are all Global South issues. So, Chancellor Cigarroa says, let us become a portal at UTRGV for thinking about the Global South and the relevance of our research as you would apply it to issues in the Global South. It is going to get woven into the DNA is the best way I can say it.”
Asked specifically if UTRGV could work closely with higher education institutions in northern Mexico, as Allex had asked about, Garcia said yes.
“Absolutely, we can work together. I think where we are right now is in like a little pause with Mexico. The issues that are dangerous to people in Mexico are dangerous to the people here. I say pause because all of the many years of synergy that we had built up is kind of on a pause. It is not going to be forever. Very likely it will be a short one. So, we need to be ready to move back in and to do so in a pronounced way,” Garcia said.