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EDINBURG, RGV – William McRaven, Chancellor of the University of Texas System, said cities that have both a medical school and a healthcare district, such as those in Dallas, Bexar and Harris counties, have worked very well together for the community that they support.

McRaven, McAllen mayor Jim Darling, Edinburg mayor Richard Garcia and Pharr mayor, Ambrosio Hernandez were on a panel at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance.

William McRaven
William McRaven

Just recently, the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court passed a motion allowing the petition for a Healthcare District in Hidalgo County to appear on the ballot this November.

McRaven used his hometown of San Antonio to explain the success when you combine a medical school and a healthcare district. McRaven said the healthcare industry in the city of San Antonio is about a $30 billion enterprise, however he wouldn’t presuppose how to tell anybody whether or not a health district is right for the community.

“It’s about understanding the tax payers dollars are kind of defined by the county in terms of how they want those dollars spent and on what population and therefore that relationship between the health science center, medical school and healthcare district and improving the health of the community is key. And the taxpayers have a say in that. So, what you see is it improves health [and] it drives the economy back.

If the residents of Hidalgo County do not vote in favor of a healthcare district, Darling said the community needs to find an alternative.

“Mayor Darling’s point is good which is if you want to continue to improve the quality of healthcare here in the Valley, you have to come up with some options that are going to require a partnership between the medical school and the community and I think that there are probably other ways to do that,” McRaven said.

McRaven said the community needs to figure out a way to work together and if that succeeds, then there’s nothing the community cannot achieve. Mayor Garcia mentioned San Antonio the huge economic success of the city today because of the medical school as well as the healthcare district and asked if that transformation can happen in the RGV.

“That transformation can occur anywhere where the people of the community come together to decide and make their future,” McRaven said. “Any time a community invests in something it is always going to be painful. Nobody likes to tax folks and … it’s about seeing what your future is and fighting hard to get to that future. We at the [UT] System are prepared to partner with you wherever we can to make that future as bright as possible.”

Strategic Assessment

As a previous commander for the U.S. Special Operations Command, McRaven said his responsibilities were to make sure his 12 subordinate commands were properly resourced, properly trained, properly equipped and had a strategic plan to move forward–which is no different than his job as chancellor.

“My job isn’t really to make sure the institutions work,” McRaven said. “My job is to make sure the intentions work for the state of Texas. It is all about the state of Texas. What is the Rio Grande Valley, what is Austin, what is San Antonio and what is El Paso–what are they doing for the people of Texas?”

In May 2014, McRaven and the presidents of the 14 UT institutions met for a strategic assessment that included the trends of Texas.

Texas provides great health care in areas such as Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, Houston and here in the Valley at Doctor’s Hospital at Renaissance. However, McRaven said in some areas, the ratio of general practitioners to patients is 1:1,000.

Of the six medical institutions in the state, McRaven said they are not collaborating well and adding the medical schools in Austin and the Valley into the equation, there is a phenomenal opportunity within the healthcare enterprise to work in ways they’ve never done before.

“The point is we’ve got to make sure that our healthcare system serves everyone in Texas, not just the marketplace in which these institutions reside,” McRaven said.

McRaven said the UT System Board of Regents invested another $12 million in building telemedicine infrastructure. According to the American Telemedicine Association (ATA), telemedicine is the remote delivery of health care services and clinical information through the use of technology including telephone or broadcast.

Diabetes and obesity are the number one health concerns in the RGV. McRaven said about $720 million is spent on diabetes and both diabetes and obesity is preventable. One initiative the UT System has taken is Project Diabetes and Obesity Control (DOC).

“We’re continuing to work with hospital systems across the Valley to make sure that we can provide and support the concerns of the [RGV] as it relates to diabetes and obesity and we want to continue to do that,” McRaven said. “We think that that’s an opportunity to lower the cost to the payer, lower the cost to the hospital, lower the cost to the taxpayers and most importantly to improve the health of the great population here in the Valley.”

The education of students in Pre-K through 12th grade is an issue everywhere in Texas and in the RGV, said McRaven. He said in order to strengthen college readiness, there are programs in place such as dual enrollment, early college high schools as well as math and science academies however some of that is falling short.

“If they’re falling short in Pre-K through 12, we’re not going to have guys like you leading the medical revolution,” McRaven said. “We need to make sure we’re strengthening that as well. So, there are a number of things–I refer to them as quantum leaps–but there are a number of things we’re doing across the system as part of our vision to strengthen Texas at large and individual communities at the micro level.”

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