Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp.
Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp.

McALLEN, RGV – Following in-depth discussions with state Sen. Juan Hinojosa, Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp is going to make a major announcement about a healthcare project he believes will transform the Rio Grande Valley.

The announcement will be made in the next two or three weeks, Sharp said Monday evening, while speaking at a “Working towards a Healthy South Texas” dinner event at the Texas A&M Health Science Center McAllen campus.

The event brought together representatives from USDA, Baylor University Texas Hunger Initiative and Texas A&M University Health Science Center, along with Hinojosa and McAllen Mayor Jim Darling. They discussed the nutrition needs of the Valley, where almost 40 percent of children are considered food-insecure. The collaboration includes a summer feeding programs for children on free or reduced lunch programs.

In his remarks, Sharp spoke about his upcoming announcement. He said the project came about following discussions with Hinojosa. He said Hinojosa pointed out that Texas A&M University is connected with all 254 counties in Texas and has Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service offices in 250 of those counties.

“This guy right here says look, you are in 254 counties. You have offices in 250 counties. You do a tremendous job of taking all of the research from agriculture and instead of a farmer or rancher having to go through Monsanto or having to go through one of the big agriculture conglomerates, you take it directly to farmers, directly to ranchers and show them how to plant drought-resistant sorghum, sugar cane, how to fix their cows, and all this kind of stuff,” Sharp said.

“So, he (Hinojosa) looks at us and says why can’t you do that to people and use the same kind of facilities? We have for some time been working very closely with him. He and us are going to have a little something to say in two or three weeks that we think will join forces with this (nutrition initiative) and be transformational for the Rio Grande Valley.”

Sharp had earlier praised Hinojosa for his commitment to the people of South Texas.

“Chuy Hinojosa, when it came to bringing the medical school down here, he was passionate for the Rio Grande Valley. He wakes up every morning trying to figure out how do I make children healthier, how do I make education more available, how do I make hospitals and all kinds of things available to the Rio Grande Valley? I have never met anyone more passionate about the people he represents than Chuy Hinojosa.”

Sharp then introduced Hinojosa. The McAllen senator said this of the big, upcoming, announcement: “Following up a comment from Chancellor John Sharp, hopefully in the next two or three weeks we plan to make a major announcement, a plan, a proposal that we think will change and transform South Texas in terms of organizing, in terms of marshalling all our resources, and coordinating our assets in healthcare and will focus and make it better in terms of health issues, in terms of focusing on asthma, on focusing on infectious diseases, on diabetes. For us it is a challenge but it is also an opportunity to make this place a better place to live and lower the cost of healthcare by educating and marshalling what we have in place.”

Brett P. Giroir, MD, executive vice president and CEO of Texas A&M University Health Science Center, also spoke about the upcoming announcement.

“Chancellor Sharp and I have been working pretty hard, along with our leadership. We believe there is tremendous opportunity to create a healthy South Texas. I can say this because I am a physician. I am a sub-specialty physician, pediatric intensive care unit doctor. It is not going to happen if we start in the hospitals. It is not going to happen if we start in the doctor’s office,” Giroir said.

“It is going to happen by creating an integrated network from hospitals all the way through to public health and nursing and pharmacy professionals, allowing them to practice at the peak of their license, extending through AgriLife, because we are the people there in the communities, right where AgriLife Extension is, where we have the family/consumer scientists, master wellness volunteers. We believe we have a whole new model to extend and improve health.”

Giroir noted that the Texas A&M Health Science Center McAllen campus is currently home to public health and nursing programs. “We will be expanding those dramatically,” he said.

Mayor Darling spoke to the Guardian after the dinner about the upcoming A&M announcement. “We are getting a lot of attention. I think the new (UT) university and medical school has gotten attention to a lot of our problems. I think everybody wants to get on board with the solutions, so that is exciting. I think people are knocking on doors and it is going to do nothing but help make this a better place to live.”