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EDINBURG, RGV – The Rio Grande Valley now has a medical education facility comparable to any of the top facilities in the country, according to Dr. Leonel Vela, senior associate dean for education and academic affairs at the UT-Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine.

Speaking as a temporary tour guide for media seeking a glimpse of UTRVG’s new $54 million school of medicine, Vela says the facility represents opportunities that have never been available for students in the Valley.

“The Valley for the very first time has a medical school to do that. For previous med students, if you were someone who wanted to pursue medicine you had to leave the Valley,” Vela said. “The facilities we have, the technology we have, the education and curriculum we have in place is one that is as comparable to a medical school anywhere in the country.”

Vela, along with Betty Monfort, senior assistant dean for admissions and enrollment management at the UTRGV School of Medicine, and Marta Salinas-Hovar, associate vice president for facilities planning and operations at the medical school were all on hand during the media tour of the facility located at 1201 W. Schunior Street in Edinburg.

The building comprises 88,260 square feet. Construction started on July 1, 2014, and it is on track to be completed by May 31, 2016, in time to matriculate the first medical school class in 2016.

“You can take this facility and put it up next to Harvard or Yale, and there is no comparison,” Monfort said. “We have had students and parents that come down here and couldn’t believe this was the Valley. So, this is putting really putting us on the medical education map.”

The medical school is comprised of two buildings which include the medical school and an adjacent student education center, auditorium and student lounge.

The three-story medical school includes 24 classrooms, a digital anatomy learning center and laboratory, six observation rooms and eight breakout classrooms created for small group discussion.

“The facilities are just technologically so advanced and so progressive. It just compliments the innovative curriculum,” Monfort said. “The students are going to be able to learn comfortably and in their generational methods. These are kids that are used to technology. It’s going to be very conducive.”

The UTRGV School of Medicine is due to open this summer. Its founding dean is Dr. Francisco Fernandez.

Fernandez did not participate on the tour but did issue a statement. He said: “When we started our journey to build a medical school from the ground up, we had a plan predicated on many hopes and a wonderful dream. Today, however, as we walk the halls of this beautiful Medical Education Building on the Edinburg Campus, those dreams have become a wonderful reality. We are confident our UTRGV medical students, along with our stellar faculty and staff, will benefit in as yet untold ways from the professional and education environment this facility provides.”

Here are some of the key statistics about the new medical building:

•    Its address is: 1210 W. Schunior Street, Edinburg, Texas 78541
•    It has been built to support and advance UTRGV’s goal of expanding and facilitating medical education in the Rio Grande Valley.
•    The architects are Geoffrey S. Edwards, principal of Muñoz & Co. and James Sterner, Chief Operating Officer, Muñoz & Co. The company is based in San Antonio, Texas.
•    The building comprises 88,260 gross square feet.
•    The total construction cost per square foot is $612.
•    The total project cost is $54 million, which has been paid with Permanent University Fund bond proceeds.
•    Construction started on July 1, 2014, and it is on track to be completed by May 31, 2016, in time to matriculate the first medical school class in 2016.
•    The building has a concrete structural floor and frame with metal stud backup, brick veneer, cast stone rim, and fenestration complimenting the adjacent Research Education Building.
•    There are two buildings, a three-story building for medical classrooms, digital anatomy labs, seminar rooms, library, and faculty offices, and a one-story building housing the student education center, auditorium and student lounge.
•    The three story building comprises 24 classrooms, including a digital anatomy learning center, a digital anatomy laboratory, six observation rooms and eight breakout classrooms designed for small group discussions.
•    Two large classrooms are located on the second story, with capacity for up to 100 students each.
•    There are 48 administration offices, including the dean’s offices, 26 faculty offices, admissions registrar’s office, financial aid office and 12 open offices, and five conference rooms on the third floor.
•    Food service/dining area for students is on the first floor.
•    The one-story building houses the Student Education Center, an auditorium, and the Student Union
•    The buildings are connected by an enhanced exterior plaza or covered loggia.