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McALLEN, RGV – The McAllen Medical Center Foundation is to fund a $100,000 professorship at the South Texas Diabetes and Obesity Institute.

STDOI conducts advanced research on diabetes and obesity in order to develop better treatments. It is part of UT-Rio Grande Valley.

Doug Matney, president of McAllen Medical Center Foundation, held a check presentation at the McAllen Medical Center on Monday. Present were UT-RGV President Guy Bailey, Dr. Francisco Fernandez, founding dean of the UT-RGV School of Medicine, and Havidan Rodriguez, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at UTRGV.

Doug Matney
Doug Matney

“The McAllen Medical Center Foundation is pleased to support diabetes and obesity research in the Rio Grande Valley,” Matney told the Rio Grande Guardian. “The creation of the endowed professorship at the South Texas Diabetes and Obesity Institute at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley will make a real difference long-term in how this region’s healthcare providers and educators deal with the complexities of these diseases.”

Last October, renowned genetics and infectious diseases expert Sarah Williams-Blangero announced she was moving her team of 20-plus researchers from San Antonio to the Rio Grande Valley and the UT System appointed her director of STDOI.

“With the recruitment of Dr. Williams-Blangero and her team, UTRGV will achieve instantaneous national and international recognition for our health sciences research capabilities,” Fernandez said at the time. “These researchers have worked with over 15,000 study volunteers from San Antonio to Nepal, and their work spans the spectrum of medicine from diabetes and obesity to heart disease, osteoporosis, psychiatric disease, cancer and infectious diseases.”

Launching STDOI, Williams-Blangero said the institute was being established to advance research of diabetes and obesity, develop better treatments and ultimately improve the health of residents in South Texas and beyond. She pointed out diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, and roughly 30 percent of South Texans have diabetes, making the region a prime location to examine the genetics of the complex disease.

“This is the kind of opportunity that comes once in a lifetime. It’s a chance to establish a novel research focus and build an exemplary, world-class research program from the ground up,” Williams-Blangero said.

Bailey said that as UTRGV and its School of Medicine comes to fruition, the focus is on connecting science and research with the South Texas community. “We are working to create the best possible outcomes for our patients through research, clinical care and education,” Bailey said.

Meanwhile, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has announced approval of a Doctor of Medicine degree at UTRGV.  Scheduled to open in fall 2016, the UTRGV School of Medicine plans to enroll 50 students into its inaugural class for the medical school, pending accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education.

Fernandez said the UTRGV M.D. program will have an innovative curriculum where medical students will have early exposure to clinical experiences and service learning opportunities. He said students and faculty will also have the opportunity to engage in inter-professional instruction and research in the biomedical sciences, pharmacy, public health, allied health and nursing professions.

“This is yet another historic milestone for the entire Valley, UTRGV and the School of Medicine,” Fernandez said. “We are thankful to the UT System Board of Regents, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, our President Dr. Guy Bailey and our staff and faculty who are committed to our goal of providing education that is state-of-the-art in terms of advancing the science of medicine with technology in concert with a humanistic approach.”

Bailey agreed. “For the first time in the history of the Valley, students will be able to both earn their medical degree and practice medicine in this region,” Bailey said. “This is yet another phenomenal step forward for UTRGV and the School of Medicine. As a medically underserved region, this will help UTRGV address the critical issues surrounding health care needs in the Valley. Today’s decision is a truly historic one.”