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Gary Gurwitz, a member of the board of trustees for South Texas College, and McAllen Mayor Jim Darling both spoke at a groundbreaking ceremony for the $24 million expanded Dr. Ramiro R. Casso Nursing and Allied Health Campus.

MCALLEN, RGV – Approximately $24 million will be invested in a 90,000-square-foot facility to expand South Texas College’s medical programs.

Shirley Reed, President of South Texas College (STC), said voters approved $159 million in the 2013 bond election for STC expansion.

About $90 million will go to the three campuses in McAllen. STC will expand their Pecan Campus and the Technology Campus will nearly double in size.

On the Nursing & Allied Health Campus, approximately $24 million will be invested in constructing a four-story facility to expand STC’s nursing program and to offer other medical programs in the areas of radiology, sonography, vascular doppler technology and surgical technology.

Reed said STC turned away nearly 70 qualified nursing students this year because STC could not accommodate that amount of growth in the program. Of these qualified students, Reed said most of them had a 4.0 GPA and about 15 to 20 hours of prerequisite courses.

“This new facility is going to be a major step forward for preparing future nurses in a wide variety of allied health professionals,” Reed said, at a groundbreaking ceremony. “We all know it’s critical to the future of the [Rio Grande] Valley and it’s critical for our well being.”

The new facility will also feature a hospital simulation center. This will allow students to obtain their clinical experience in one location as opposed to travelling to-and-from five or six different hospitals.

“In the simulation center, you have mannequins,” Reed said. “They live and they die, they throw up [and] they wet the bed. You name it [and] they do it. They can actually practice on the mannequins. The faculty will be video recording what’s going on [and] then you can sit down, critique it and evaluate it.”

Gary Gurwitz, member of STC’s Board of Trustees for District 4, said the City of McAllen saved STC’s nursing program by providing 40 acres of land for the Pecan Campus.

“We had been advised [that] if we didn’t have a location and a place for developing the school … we would lose our accreditation for even having the program,” Gurwitz said. “The City of McAllen came in and said, ‘Look we got property for you here … you build it here.’ They not only gave us land, they gave it to us at a time when we were desperate [and] had no other place to go.”

Gurwitz said out of the 350 nursing programs in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, STC ranked 45th. And since the beginning of the Nursing & Allied Health Program, they’ve graduated over 9,000 students.

McAllen Mayor Jim Darling thanked voters for approving the STC bond issue. Without the bond, STC would not have been able to expand in McAllen, Darling said. The irony of Darling’s remarks was not lost on many at the groundbreaking ceremony. A majority of McAllen voters voted ‘no’ to the bond issue. Many attribute the bond’s passage to the voters of Starr County, who voted heavily in favor.

“To me this is a dream come true. When you talk about the new medical school in Edinburg being a game changer. I’ve got to tell you, South Texas College has been a game changer since its very foundation.”

Other speakers at the groundbreaking ceremony included state Sen. Juan Hinojosa and architect Eli Ochoa.

STC expects to open the expanded Dr. Ramiro R. Casso Nursing and Allied Health Campus in Feb. 2018.

Editor’s Note: The photos contained in the slideshow that accompanies this story were taken by reporter Steve Taylor.