HARLINGEN, Texas – An “incredible” and “impressive” partnership has been announced by UT-Rio Grande Valley and HCA. 

This is the view of James B. Milliken, chancellor of the University of Texas System. Milliken could not be at the signing ceremony but he spoke to the audience via Zoom. 

The announcement was held at the UTRGV Clinical Education Building on Treasure Hills Boulevard in Harlingen. The agreement to work together was signed by UTRGV President Guy Bailey, Dr. Michael Hocker, dean of the UTRGV School of Medicine, Cris Rivera, the retiring CEO of Rio Grande Regional Hospital, and David Irizarry, CEO of Valley Regional Medical Center.

“It marks another milestone in the evolution of UTRGV and its mission to serve the Rio Grande Valley,” Milliken said. “Extended health care… is important to the future of the Valley, it’s important to the future of all Texas.”

Under the agreement, 30 resident physicians will be furthering their education in Brownsville and McAllen by summer 2024, with plans to seat 150 total resident physician positions by 2029.

Residents from the UTRGV School of Medicine will train at HCA Healthcare Gulf Coast Division affiliate hospitals Rio Grande Regional Hospital in McAllen and Valley Regional Medical Center in Brownsville. This is the first time UTRGV will have a residency program in Brownsville.

In his remarks, Milliken said a lot of money has been invested in the Valley to help medical education.

“Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested by the state and the board of regions to support the education and research and clinical initiative. The cities and counties have greatly supportive also,” Milliken said.

“Our commitment to our medical students to train them here… to give them the best possible opportunities to remain and practice here has been part of a long, intentional strategic plan. And I can assure you there will be more investments made to support this plan.”

Milliken repeated a line UT System Regent Nolan Perez has said earlier in the program. 

“As Nolan said, talent is universal, opportunity is not. We are going to do everything we can to make sure that the opportunity is matched with the enormous talent that is in the Valley. Our students deserve it. The people in the Valley deserve it. They deserve access to the highest quality of care.”

Milliken said UTRGV’s research and education enterprises work in tandem. 

“It allows RGV to provide the best in care, to accelerate discoveries in medical technologies, to develop a workforce. And that’s what the best academic health science centers in this country do. And that’s what UTRGV is doing also,” Milliken said.

“Its total expenditures for research have tripled since it began and it has moved to the NSF rankings up almost 100 positions. It’s now in the top third of all institutions nationally in terms of research expenditures. That is an amazing rate of growth and trajectory over only a decade. It’s the largest and most successful driver service out of San Antonio.”

Milliken also mentioned how much UTRGV is doing to keep college affordable. He said a reduced tuition program at the university is among the most generous in Texas and one of the most generous in the country. 

And he gave a shout to the Luminary Scholarship program, created in part by “an extraordinary gift” from MacKenzie Scott.

“This is someone who has a team of people who study those institutions and those leaders that are making such an incredible difference that they would invest significantly. So, a $40 million investment in Guy Bailey’s leadership and the leadership team at RGV and all of you and the work that you’re doing is an incredible statement about the national recognition of what’s happening here,” Milliken said.

Guy Bailey is president of UTRGV.

Milliken then circled back to the UTRGV-HCA agreement.

“So today we’re launching an incredible new relationship partner, an existing foundation of great strength in education, research, and healthcare,” Milliken said, referring to HCA.

“Given what’s happened in the last ten years I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen in the years ahead. So thank you, HCA. And thank you to my colleagues at RGV for the ways you are working together to improve the lives of people in the Rio Grande Valley and the opportunities for the incredibly talented young people in the Valley.”

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