Editor’s Note: The agenda for Saturday’s Latino Summit, hosted by the Senate Hispanic Caucus, has been revised. Details on the revised agenda are incorporated in this updated story:

MCALLEN, RGV – State Sen. Juan Hinojosa is torn between attending two big events happening in the Rio Grande Valley at the same time on Saturday.

The McAllen Democrat has chosen to go to UT Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine’s first ever White Coat Ceremony at the university campus in Edinburg. Fifty-five medical students in the inaugural class at the School of Medicine will don their white coats for the first time.

At the same time the ceremony is going on, the Senate Hispanic Caucus is holding a Latino Summit at South Texas College in Weslaco. The summit will bring together community leaders, students, policy makers and elected officials to discuss policy ideas and how these policies will impact minority communities, and ways in which civic engagement can be increased.

White Coat Ceremony

“I will be at a ceremony – the same day as the Senate Hispanic Caucus meeting – where the first class of students at the UT Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine don their white coats for the first time. It is very symbolic,” Hinojosa told the Rio Grande Guardian.

The White Coat Ceremony starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday. It takes place at the UTRGV Performing Arts Complex Building ‘A’ Auditorium on the Edinburg campus.

The Arnold P. Gold Foundation started the White Coat Ceremony in 1993 to welcome new medical students to the healthcare profession. Today, about 97 percent of medical schools in the United States, as well as schools for other healthcare professions, perform such ceremonies.

White Coat ceremonies serve as a rite of passage for medical students. In addition to having medical school officials put white coats on them, the students also take the Hippocratic Oath, which acknowledges their primary role as caregivers, in front of their loved ones, school leaders and peers.

UT System Chancellor William McRaven, UTRGV President Guy Bailey and representatives from the Rio Grande Valley legislative delegation are expected to be in attendance. Dr. Darrell Kirch, president of the Association of American Medical Colleges, will deliver the keynote address.

Attending the White Coat Ceremony is a big deal for Hinojosa because he authored the legislation to set up the UTRGV School of Medicine. “The medical school will really transform the Valley. Sometimes, I feel people do not really appreciate what is going to happen,” Hinojosa said.

“One of the best things I ever did in my life was author Senate Bill 24. It will improve healthcare. People feel it is only healthcare for the poor. No. It will improve healthcare for everybody in terms of having more doctors, more specialties. It will not only focus on hospital care, it will focus on substance abuse, mental health, a variety of healthcare issues that affect our families.”

In addition to having a big impact on the health of Valley families, the new medical school will also spur economic development, Hinojosa predicted.

“It will attract hundreds of businesses that are health-related. The impact on the economy will be huge,” he said. “All you have to do is look at other regions of the state where they have created a medical school and where they have created a healthcare district. Northwest San Antonio used to be only farms and ranch land. Now it is a multi-billion-dollar medical complex. This is what we in the Valley have to look forward to.”

Latino Summit

Hinojosa is a member of the Senate Hispanic Caucus. The group is holding Latina/o Summits around Texas in order to gather information before the next legislative session starts next January. The summit in Weslaco starts at 8:30 a.m. and ends at 3:45 p.m. It is being held in Room G-191 of South Texas College’s Mid-Valley Campus in Weslaco. It is free and open to the general public.

The Latino Summit starts with registration and breakfast, between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. Hinojosa and state Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., of Brownsville, are slated to give welcoming remarks at 9 a.m. The goals and purpose of the summit will be articulated by Senate Hispanic Caucus Executive Director Luis Figueroa at 9:20 a.m. The first panel discussion takes place at 9:35 a.m. and focuses on education.

State Rep. Armando Martinez of Weslaco will moderate the education panel. Celina Moreno, a legislative staff attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, will give a review of what happened in the last legislative session. Local impact experts on the panel include Dr. Daniel P. King, superintendent of PSJA ISD, and Aurelio M. Montemayor, senior education associate for the Intercultural Development Research Association. Ramona Casas, a community organizer with ARISE, will discuss messaging and organizing.

The second panel discussion takes place at 10:50 a.m. and focuses on economic opportunity.

The moderator of this panel will be Michael Seifert of the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network. Traci Wickett, president and CEO of United Way of Southern Cameron County, will give a review of what happened in the last legislative session. Local impact experts on the panel include Hector Guzman Lopez of Fuerza del Valle Workers’ Center, and Daniela Dwyer, managing attorney for Texas RioGrande Legal Aid. Juanita Valdez-Cox, executive director of La Unión del Pueblo Entero, will discuss messaging and organizing.

Lunch will be served at 12 noon. The keynote speech will be given at 12:20 p.m. by Dr. Julieta Garcia, senior advisor to the Chancellor for Community, National and Global Engagement for the University of Texas System.

The third panel discussion takes place at 1:05 a.m. and focuses on health care.

State Rep. Oscar Longoria of La Joya will moderate the health care panel. Patrick Bresette, executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund Matt Simpson will give a review of what happened in the last legislative session. Local impact experts on the panel include Ann Williams Cass, executive director of Proyecto Azteca. Lucy Ramirez Torres, CEO of Nuestra Clinica Del Valle, will discuss messaging and organizing.

The fourth panel discussion takes place at 2:20 p.m. and focuses immigration.

Jodi Goodwin, a Harlingen-based board-certified immigration attorney, will moderate the immigration panel. Matt Simpson, policy strategist for ACLU Texas, will give a review of what happened in the last legislative session. Local impact experts on the panel include Jennifer Harbury, attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, and Meghan Johnson, managing attorney for ProBAR Children’s Project. John-Michael Torres, communications coordinator of La Unión del Pueblo Entero, will discuss messaging and organizing.

The SHC’s Figueroa will give the closing remarks and discuss next steps at 3:30 p.m.

Sen. Hinojosa said he is pleased immigration is one of the topics to be discussed at the Latinao Summit.

“It is an uphill battle for us to present a true picture of how we live along the border and how we are in South Texas, how we are really joined as families. For us, there really is no border. Our families are intertwined. We have family members on both sides of the border. Our commerce here in the Valley depends a lot on Mexican shoppers and the maquiladoras. It is a mutual benefit for both countries, to both states, Tamaulipas and Texas,” Hinojosa told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“I always tell people that between the border and the checkpoints, we are USA Tex-Mex. The reason I say that is because you can be between the checkpoints and the border without any proper documentation and a lot of people live here and work here. They go back and forth without any problems whatsoever. These are families that just want work. They are not taking anybody’s jobs. But, they cannot go past the checkpoints.”

Hinojosa said he supports moves to allow undocumented immigrants the opportunity to obtain a work permit and a driver’s license.

“There have been attempts by states to provide work permits or driving permits so that the folks that are here undocumented can at least be able to drive, have insurance, take a driving course, take their kids to school, or go to a doctor or go shopping. Instead of driving without a proper permit. They are putting the general public in danger. We have got to address those issues,” Hinojosa said.

“The federal government will allow a state to issue work permits to undocumented people. I think it is the right approach because this way we know who they are, we know where you are, we can identify you and your family. We know where you live and where you work and you are paying your taxes. It is not rocket science. It is hard to get to this point in the discussion because right away it is politicized.”