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Home | Tag Archives: TTUHSC El Paso

Tag Archives: TTUHSC El Paso

Helen of Troy CEO shares success stories with TTUHSC El Paso Students, Young Professionals

Julien Mininberg, CEO of Helen of Troy, a leading global consumer products company with U.S. headquarters in El Paso, spoke to members of the community at TTUHSC El Paso and shared insights about Helen of Troy, his extensive global business career, and life lessons that have made a difference along the way.

Mininberg was joined by his wife, Dr. Emeshe Juhasz-Mininberg, who fielded some questions along with her husband following the presentation.

One of the life lessons the Mininbergs discussed was to make sure to get out of your comfort zone.

“When you get out of your comfort zone, you end up growing much faster and more meaningfully,” said Mininberg, who has been CEO of Helen of Troy since 2014.

Mininberg also encouraged the audience to visualize a bold, bright future for themselves, resisting the natural tendency toward incrementalism.

“I am motivated by discovering, learning and envisioning a very bold future,” Mininberg said. “I’m encouraging you to do the same. Not out of arrogance, not out of over-ambitiousness, but out of the concept that the sky’s the limit once you set your mind to something. And if you think that is of interest to you, pursue it. Who knows what path it’ll take you?”

Guests included TTUHSC El Paso nursing, medical and biomedical students, Helen of Troy employees and interns, and members of Progress321, a nonprofit organization that aims to make the Paso del Norte region the next “best place to live and work.”

TTUHSC El Paso’s conservation efforts yield double-digit energy reduction

With a growing campus, energy consumption at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso could easily eat up a larger and larger portion of the university’s budget.

However, efforts by the team in TTUHSC El Paso’s Physical Plant and Support Services have led to a 14.6% reduction in energy use during the past three years, despite the campus’ square footage growing by 11.5%.

The energy savings have been part of a long-term effort to improve equipment and gain more control of cooling and heating in university buildings, said Leopoldo Pereyra, managing director of Physical Plant and Support Services.

The effort began back in 2010, as the university slowly began to fill buildings that had not been at capacity.

“We identified some issues in how the energy was managed,” Pereyra said. “There were several infrastructure upgrades that needed to be done to prepare the university for the future. We needed updates on the controls and mechanical systems. Because energy costs are a significant amount of the university’s budget, that’s where we need to concentrate if we want to find savings.”

The upgrades began paying off in 2015, Pereyra said, with annual energy savings of about 6%. Those savings have continued to be put back into upgrades to gain further energy consumption reductions.

One ongoing upgrade effort that can be seen around campus is the upgrade to LED lighting, which consumes less energy.

“We’ve already upgraded all main hallways of the Medical Education Building, numerous areas in the Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso clinics, the Academic Education Center and the Medical Sciences Building I,” Pereyra said. “And just recently, the Gayle Greve Hunt School of Nursing invested their own funding into upgrading the lighting of their building. So that building is top of the line in mechanical equipment and lighting fixtures. We are in excellent shape for the future, especially with the conservation culture we have developed at TTUHSC El Paso.”

“TTUHSC El Paso employees play a big role in helping the university consume less energy and help empower the campus community to be good stewards of private and public funding,” Pereyra added.

“One very important thing is to turn off the lights,” Pereyra said. “Once they leave their offices, turn off everything that is drawing electrical current: the computers, the lights. That’s a big help. The campus can help us obtain our goals. It may seem like a small thing, but if you have staff and students doing the same thing, it can add up to big savings.”

The energy use reductions helped the university save more than $500,000 from 2015 to 2018.

TTUHSC El Paso Professor Named Editor-In-Chief of Journal of Investigative Medicine

Richard W. McCallum, M.D., FACP, FRACP (AUST), FACG, AGAF, professor and founding chair of the department of internal medicine at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso), has been appointed editor-in-chief of the Journal of Investigative Medicine (JIM), the official publication of the American Federation for Medical Research, in collaboration with the British Medical Journal.

Dr. McCallum is also an honorary professor at the University of Queensland Medical School in Brisbane, Australia.

Dr. McCallum, a gastroenterology specialist who currently directs the Center for Neurogastroenterology and GI Motility, enters this prestigious position with years of editorial experience with numerous medical research journals. He is currently the editor-in-chief of Gastrointestinal Disorders, an online medical journal based in Basel, Switzerland.

The Journal of Investigative Medicine covers all topics and specialty areas related to laboratory, translational and clinical biomedical research.

“The journal is the kind of publication that all junior faculty aspire to publish in,” Dr. McCallum said. “I am mentoring my young faculty to submit their abstracts and go to the appropriate medical meetings and conferences with one of the goals being to–hopefully–publish in this journal.”

As editor-in-chief, Dr. McCallum plans to implement some new ideas for the publication.

“One of my goals for the journal is to be more personable and hands-on while continuing to produce quality articles and improve impact factor,” he said. Dr. McCallum also wants to use his role to assist faculty with mentoring, career development and academic advancement.

Dr. McCallum said another plus for the university is the association with the American Federation for Medical Research. The federation is an international, multidisciplinary association of scientists with a history that reaches back to 1940.

TTUHSC El Paso is “at the national level now,” Dr. McCallum said. “We’re competing with more established medical schools around the nation, and being associated with this journal is an incentive for our university to aspire to achieve higher standards and maintain national recognition.”

TTUHSC El Paso Professor Recognized by the National Board of Medical Examiners

Herbert F. Janssen, Ph.D., M.Ed, professor of physiology in medical education and interim associate dean for student affairs at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso’s Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, has been nominated by the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) to serve on the United States Medical Licensing Examination Test Material Development Committee.

In addition to his nomination for the committee, Dr. Janssen has also been appointed to the physiology and cell biology subject test committee.

In this position, Dr. Janssen will work with individuals around the nation to write and review examination questions for medical licensure exams.

“Each test question passes through the hands of many individuals before it is finally included as a viable test item on an actual examination,” Dr. Janssen said. “Care is taken to ensure that each question, not only addresses pertinent information, but is also fair and free of bias.”

Even after potential exam questions are deemed acceptable by the NBME staff, they are still put through various comparisons before being approved for licensure exams.

With this position, Dr. Janssen will have the unique opportunity to represent TTUHSC El Paso while gaining valuable insight into the procedures used to ensure that all medical students nationwide achieve necessary standards of excellence.

“I look forward to this experience, as I am certain I will learn a tremendous amount from the National Board of Medical Examiner’s staff and other professionals involved in the test development process,” Dr. Janssen said.

TTUHSC El Paso Professor Emeritus receives inaugural APSA Surgical Humanitarian Award

Donald Meier, M.D., professor emeritus at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso), has been awarded the first American Pediatric Surgical Association (APSA) Surgical Humanitarian Award.

“I saw the great need in El Paso,” Dr. Meier said. “As I toured the city, I saw it was truly an unserved pediatric surgical area. I went back to my wife and told her, ‘I think God is calling us to El Paso.’”

The award, meant for surgeons who have dedicated a significant portion of their careers to humanitarian efforts, was given to Dr. Meier in recognition of his 17 years of missionary surgery work in Nigeria, followed by his years serving underserved populations in El Paso, Juárez and other areas of the world.

Dr. Meier came to El Paso in 2003 at a time when there was no pediatric surgeon in the city, he said. For almost three years, he was the only pediatric surgeon on call in the West Texas area.

Dr. Meier became a full-time professor in TTUHSC El Paso’s department of surgery in 2005 and became a professor emeritus in 2015 with plans to continue his international humanitarian work. However, his humanitarian work unfortunately came to a stop after he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage shortly after a humanitarian trip to Cameroon in 2016.

Dr. Meier said his focus while practicing humanitarian surgeries was always on educating surgeons around the world. He has completed short-term teaching trips to areas of surgical need, such as Kosovo, Albania, Afghanistan, Haiti, Ethiopia, Uganda and Mongolia, among others. He is an honorary professor of pediatric surgery at Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“My emphasis has always been on not only practicing high-quality surgery, but teaching high-quality surgery,” he said.

Tamara Fitzgerald, M.D., Ph.D., and Doruk Ozgediz, M.D., M.Sc., wrote an introduction about Dr. Meier for the award ceremony in Boston, Mass. They wrote, “Dr. Meier remains an icon in global surgery and pediatric surgery. He is a man of faith and has been a role model and mentor for generations of doctors and surgeons.”

Donald Meier, M.D. (left), speaks with a medical resident (right) and patients in a hospital in Ethiopia in this undated photo. (Photo courtesy of Donald Meier)

Their introduction goes on to say, “He exemplifies the highest ideals of humanitarianism to which we all strive: love for humanity, passion for service, empathy and a drive to alleviate the suffering for those in greatest need, and a lifelong commitment to tackle local and global inequities. His expertise, integrity and unwavering focus on the needs of clinicians and communities in low-income settings are a true inspiration. He has lobbied, cajoled and catalyzed interest in voluntarism globally – and he has done it with a witty sense of humor and zest for life. He is the rare surgeon whose career has established sustainable institutions both at home and abroad to reduce health disparities.”

Dr. Meier currently lives in Dallas with his wife of 50 years, Patsy. Patsy Meier worked as an operating room nurse with Dr. Meier during their years in Nigeria.

New services offered by Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso ease surgery for breast cancer patients

Officials at Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso announced on Tuesday that Karinn Chambers, M.D., assistant professor at the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine’s department of surgery, is now certified in Hidden Scar Breast Cancer Surgery.

Dr. Chambers is a surgeon at Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso and medical director of the TTP El Paso Breast Care Center.

With the Hidden Scar approach to surgery, certified physicians use different techniques to hide surgical scars associated with breast cancer procedures, while allowing for the best oncological outcomes.

“Becoming certified in Hidden Scar surgery has allowed me to perfect the use of tools in the operating room that allow me to better visualize the internal structures of the breast, so that I can do more work on the inside and have a less-invasive scar on the outside,” Dr. Chambers said.

Dr. Chambers is one of only a few surgeons in West Texas certified in Hidden Scar surgery. She said the scar issue is important to her, even if patients don’t express it as their biggest worry at the time.

“For me, it’s a concern, because this is the scar they’re going to spend the rest of their lives with,” Dr. Chambers said. “It’s a delicate part of the anatomy to deal with. And though women at that time may not feel that the scar is their main concern, in the future it will matter to them. There are a lot of emotional ties to breast health, so if we can maintain our oncological outcomes with a minimal amount of cosmetic effect, that is something we’ll continue to strive to do.”

Dr. Chambers and her team at the Breast Care Center are now offering wireless breast lesion localization, a service that makes the day of the procedure more comfortable for the patient.

Traditionally, surgery teams attach guide wires to patients’ breasts so the surgeon can pinpoint the lesion’s location.

“In a lot of institutions across the United States, and what we were doing up until recently, standard of care was to place a clip at the time of biopsy, so we would know where that lesion was no matter how distorted the tissue became after biopsy,” Dr. Chambers said. “We would place a wire to that lesion, so that would be our arrow pointing us in the right direction. Wireless localization allows us to not have patients waiting in the pre-operative area with wires protruding from their breasts.”

With wireless localization, a tiny “seed” is placed within the breast cancer lesion during preoperative planning. On the day of surgery, sonar is used to locate the seed and the area to be removed.

The combination of wireless localization and Hidden Scar techniques can lead to a very positive outlook for the patient.

“Wireless localization shows me where the lesion is, and the Hidden Scar techniques help me strategically place my incision, so the cosmetic outcomes are better,” Dr. Chambers said. “This sonar seed that we’re placing might help me take less tissue as well, helping cosmetic outcomes.”

All treatment at the Breast Care Center is individualized and done to care for the patient in the least traumatic way possible, Dr. Chambers said.

“Not every woman needs a mastectomy; not every woman needs chemotherapy,” Dr. Chambers said. “Every breast cancer treatment is tailored to that person and to that type of cancer, so we can best mesh our patients’ needs with what we need to do to cure their cancer.”

$1.5M Establishes Robinson & Furman Family Endowed Chair in Radiology at TTUHSC EP

On Monday, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso, along with El Pasoans Tony and Robin Furman, announced a major gift to the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine’s Department of Radiology.

The Furman family is giving $540,000 to establish an endowed chair for the department in honor of Robin Furman’s parents Arvin Robinson, M.D. and his wife, Beverly.

TTUHSC El Paso will match the gift, and the Robinsons will direct $420,000 from a previously established fund in their name to create the $1.5 million Dr. Arvin and Beverly Robinson-Furman Family Endowed Chair in Radiology.

Dr. Robinson, who attended today’s announcement event with Beverly Robinson, retired from TTUHSC El Paso in 2015. He joined the university’s radiology department in 2004, part of a remarkable 50-year career in medicine.

In addition to launching the department’s residency program, he served as department chair from 2006 to 2013 and is chairman emeritus.

“Ending up as chairman of the department and starting a residency program in radiology really has him so proud,” Robin Furman said of her father. “We’re happy that we can now help celebrate that success.”

“We thought it would be a fitting and lasting tribute to Arvin and Beverly to fund an endowed chair,” Tony Furman said. “It’s something that lasts forever and hopefully inspires other people to consider gifts of a perpetual nature.”

The endowment will support the new chairman of the radiology department, Thomas M. Dykes, M.D. Dr. Dykes will start his new role at TTUHSC El Paso on July 1.

Prior to TTUHSC El Paso, he served as professor of radiology and vice-chair for clinical affairs in the Department of Radiology at Penn State Health’s Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

“We hope that this endowment will first and foremost help the radiology department and Dr. Thomas Dykes with income to do the things that Dr. Dykes and future chairs think are important for the department, the school and, most importantly, the medical students,” Tony Furman said.

Tony grew up in El Paso and, together with Robin, moved back to El Paso 26 years ago and raised their two boys here.

Tony co-founded Interstate Capital, a homegrown company that grew into a $100 million enterprise. The couple found success here and made it their mission to share that success by giving back to their community.

Endowed faculty positions are critical to the mission of TTUHSC El Paso. They allow the university to attract and retain world-class talent, which benefits our students and the future of health care.

Endowed chairs are considered a prestigious honor in academia, and give department leaders the ability to invest in their vision for the department by supporting scholarships and fellowships for talented students and residents, and funding research activities.

For more information on how to make an investment in the future of health care in the Paso del Norte region and take advantage of matching funds, contact Andrea Tawney, associate vice chancellor of TTUHSC El Paso’s Office of Institutional Advancement, at

$25K gift will support TTUHSC El Paso’s Nursing Scholarships

Western Heritage Bank vice chairman of the board Bob Snow and his wife, Jane, have pledged a gift of $25,000 to support a scholarship fund for students at the Gayle Greve Hunt School of Nursing.

“What we want to do is encourage others to give whatever amount they can give. Scholarships are a direct need and a direct benefit to the students and our community,” Bob Snow said.

“The university is creating jobs. It’s bringing in new doctors and nurses to serve our region. It is, in my opinion, one of the most important things going on in El Paso today. If you see what’s happening here, you’ll see the need and maybe somewhere in your heart make a decision to donate to the university and invest in the future of health care.”

TTUHSC El Paso will match the Snows’ generous gift through the President’s Excellence Fund, making a total of $50,000 available for nursing student scholarships.

The announcement was made during TTUHSC El Paso’s inaugural Sip & Sim event Tuesday evening, June 11, at the school of nursing.

Sip & Sim is a social event that brings together El Paso community members and business leaders for an up-close look at the university’s medical simulation laboratories.

TTUHSC El Paso officials celebrate funding of Woody L. Hunt School of Dental Medicine

Officials with the Woody L. Hunt School of Dental Medicine at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso celebrated a much-anticipated milestone on Monday.

On Saturday, June 15, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott  signed a $250.7 billion, two-year state budget approved by the Texas Legislature. The budget includes an appropriation of $20 million to establish the Woody L. Hunt School of Dental Medicine at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso.

“The funding is a major milestone in the development of the Hunt School of Dental Medicine,” said Richard Black, D.D.S., M.S., dean of the Hunt School of Dental Medicine. “This investment and support from the Texas Legislature and governor sends a strong message to our accrediting bodies that the state supports our new school and its critical mission. We also cannot thank our local El Paso legislative team enough for their efforts in garnering this appropriation.”

The Hunt School of Dental Medicine, expected to welcome its first class of students in 2021, will be the first in Texas in over 50 years and the very first at a health sciences center based on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The addition of the Hunt School of Dental Medicine to the TTUHSC El Paso campus will help reverse this trend and put El Pasoans and other West Texas residents on a track to better oral health. One great benefit to the community will be the dental clinic that will accompany the school.

The 38,000-square-foot clinic, equipped with 130 treatment chairs, will be located on campus, where students, under faculty supervision, will provide reduced-cost dental care.

The vision of a dental school for the region became a reality in 2016 when businessman Woody L. Hunt and his wife Gayle gifted $25 million to TTUHSC El Paso through the Hunt Family Foundation to establish the school.

That gift was soon followed by a $6 million grant from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation to fund the dental school’s curriculum.

“Oral health is an important part of overall health,” Woody L. Hunt said. “But for too long, West Texas hasn’t had enough dentists to serve the population.  Fifty-one West Texas counties have no dentists at all. The new TTUHSC El Paso dental school and its clinic will improve the standard of oral care and build a healthier community.”

The Hunt School of Dental Medicine will be housed in the five-story Medical Sciences Building II, now under construction on the TTUHSC El Paso campus.

“The Paso del Norte Health Foundation is grateful to Governor Abbott and the state legislature for their support of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso’s Woody L. Hunt School of Dental Medicine,” said Tracy Yellen, CEO of the Paso del Norte Community Foundation. “We are proud to work with the leadership of Texas Tech to bring a new dental school to El Paso, expand medical education and increase the number of health care providers in our region. We look forward to welcoming the first dental school class in 2021.”

El Paso is designated as a Dental Health Professional Shortage Area by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

El Paso County has only one dentist for every 4,817 residents, compared to a national average of one dentist for every 1,639 residents, according to data from the Texas Health and Human Services and the American Dental Association.

$3M gift by Rick, Ginger Francis to TTUHSC El Paso will be matched by University

On Tuesday, officials with Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso), along with the Paso Del Norte Community Foundation and Rick and Ginger Francis, announced a $3 million gift to the university.

“We love El Paso and the borderland region and feel it is important to make a difference on our watch,” Rick and Ginger Francis said. “We’ve had success and we want to share that success with the community, leaving it a better place for future generations.”

The Francis’ $3 million gift to TTUHSC El Paso will go to endow four deanships, as well as the endowed chair for the TTUHSC El Paso president, named in their honor.

This gift will be matched by TTUHSC El Paso, doubling its impact.

“Endowed positions allow us to attract and retain talented leadership from across the country who embody our university’s mission. That is what we have done in assembling an exceptional group of deans for our university,” said TTUHSC President Richard Lange, M.D., M.B.A. “Endowed deanships are one of the greatest ways to amplify what we do best here at TTUHSC El Paso: educate the next generation of health care professionals and conduct research on health issues affecting our border population.”

“TTUHSC El Paso has created an institution that will forever impact El Paso with new educational opportunities for future generations,” Rick and Ginger Francis said. “This gift will go toward the next phase of attracting the best and brightest faculty to help propel the university forward.”

Additionally, the Francis have established the Ginger G. and L. Frederick Francis Foundation in the Paso del Norte Community Foundation.

Tracy Yellen, CEO of the PDN Community Foundation, said the gift illustrates the collaboration needed to push the West Texas region forward.

“Rick and Ginger established the Ginger G. and L. Frederick Francis Foundation as a donor advised fund in the Paso del Norte Community Foundation to facilitate their charitable giving and support organizations like TTUHSC El Paso that are essential to the future of our region,” Yellen said. “We are honored to partner with Rick and Ginger and TTUHSC El Paso in this way. It is a testament to Rick and Ginger’s leadership and generosity, and the power of collaboration.”

The gift comes as the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine celebrates its 10-year anniversary. TTUHSC El Paso would not be what it is today without the generous support of many champions, including Rick and Ginger Francis — Texas Tech alumni with a long and meaningful history of leadership and giving.

University officials add that, Rick and Ginger Francis were among the earliest and most ardent supporters of TTUHSC El Paso before shovels even broke ground on what is the campus today.

TTUHSC El Paso will be the only health sciences center in Texas to have all its deanships endowed. The deans lead the four schools that comprise TTUHSC El Paso: the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, the Gayle Greve Hunt School of Nursing, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, and – coming in 2021 – the Woody L. Hunt School of Dental Medicine.

Minimally invasive procedure that fixes hole in heart now performed at UMC

On Thursday afternoon, officials with Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso announced that their doctors now perform a treatment for a heart birth defect that affects up to 25% of people.

The procedure that closes the defect—known as an atrial septal defect, or ASD; and a smaller defect which causes stroke, called patent foramen ovale, or PFO—takes a much different route than the past use of open-heart surgery.

Doctors open a vein/vessel near the groin and insert a long, thin tube called a catheter. The catheter, loaded with an alloy device called an Amplatzer septal occluder, is guided into the interior of the heart. Once in place, the occluder is released, and it expands into a circular coil that closes the hole.

About 15 years ago, almost 90% of these type of congenital heart defects were repaired through open-heart surgery, said TTP El Paso interventional cardiologist Harsha Nagarajarao, M.D., who serves as co-director of the Cardiovascular Catheterization Laboratory at University Medical Center of El Paso.

Today, the transcatheter coil occlusion procedure is widely used across the world to treat heart holes.

Dr. Nagarajarao and other TTP El Paso interventional cardiologists perform the procedure at UMC. TTP El Paso is the clinical practice of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso.

The doctor said up to 25% of people are born with this kind of hole in the heart. Not all of them will require surgery, but those that present with stroke will need to have the hole closed, he said.

Dr. Nagarajarao, who also serves as an assistant professor in the division of cardiology at TTUHSC El Paso, adds that there is a large, unmet need in the area for treating this type of heart defect. To help increase the numbers of physicians capable of treating the defect, Dr. Nagarajarao is helping train TTP El Paso physicians for certification in the procedure.

Earlier this year, a 36-year-old man who suffered multiple strokes over two years with no indication of a cause was referred by TTP El Paso’s neurology department to Dr. Nagarajarao’s cardiology team.

The doctors determined he had a PFO which was responsible for his stroke and scheduled him for the coil occlusion procedure.

The surgery, performed by Dr. Nagarajarao, was a success and significantly reduced the risk of stroke for the patient. The surgery took about two hours and required only light anesthesia.


Lawmakers approve funding for Hunt School of Dental Medicine at TTUHSC El Paso

The Texas Legislature has approved a $250.7 billion, two-year state budget that includes an appropriation of $20 million to establish the Woody L. Hunt School of Dental Medicine at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso.

The Hunt School of Dental Medicine, expected to welcome its first class of students in 2021, will be the first in Texas in over 50 years and the very first at a health sciences center based on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We are very pleased that our state lawmakers recognized the need to close the gaps of dental health disparities in West Texas and support the creation of the Hunt School of Dental Medicine in El Paso,” said TTUHSC El Paso President Richard Lange, M.D., M.B.A. “I applaud our El Paso legislative delegation for their work in pursuing funding for the school, and thank the community for supporting our vision of improved dental health care for the Borderland and West Texas.”

El Paso has a 57 percent shortage of general dentists compared to the national average, and is designated as a Dental Health Professional Shortage Area by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The vision of a dental school for the region became a reality in 2016 when businessman Woody L. Hunt and his wife Gayle gifted $25 million to TTUHSC El Paso through the Hunt Family Foundation to establish the school.

That gift was soon followed by a $6 million grant from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation to fund the dental school’s curriculum.

The Hunt School of Dental Medicine will be housed in the five-story Medical Sciences Building II, now under construction on the TTUHSC El Paso campus.

The 86th Texas Legislative Session concluded on Monday, May 27. The spending bill now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for his signature.

TTUHSC El Paso awarded $150K grant, will help finance research on Spinal Muscular Atrophy

Cure SMA recently awarded a $150,000 research grant to Laxman Gangwani, Ph.D., associate professor of Molecular and Translational Medicine, Center of Emphasis in Neurosciences, at TTUHSC El Paso’s Paul L. Foster School of Medicine.

The grant will support Gangwani’s research on a genetic disorder known as spinal muscular atrophy (SMA).

SMA is caused by a gene mutation that stops the production of a protein critical to the nerves that control muscles. Without the protein, the nerve cells die, leading to debilitating, and often fatal, muscle weakness.

There are four types of SMA, and under the most severe form, Type 1, a child cannot hold their neck up or sit, and life expectancy is only approximately two years.

Gangwani’s research project, “Function of Senataxin as a Protective Modifier of Spinal Muscular Atrophy,” will study a human protein called senataxin that in very preliminary work appears to be able to rescue SMA motor neurons and prevent their degeneration.

If the new research can show a positive role for senataxin in a mouse model of SMA, then it would suggest a potential use for senataxin as a therapeutic target in humans, Gangwani said.

Cure SMA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the treatment and cure of SMA. The organization funds research and provides support for families dealing with SMA.

To read more about SMA, click here. To read Cure SMA’s Q&A with Gangwani, click here.

El Paso Electric donates $10,000 to TTUHSC El Paso Initiatives

At the 2019 Community Partner Awards Reception, El Paso Electric donated $10,000 to the Texas Tech Foundation in support of programs at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso.

The gift will be split between nursing scholarships, the Medical Student Run Clinic and sponsorship of the university’s Cookies, Cocoa and Holiday Cheer community event, which invites the community to the campus to enjoy holiday treats, festive skits and a holiday lights show.

Nursing scholarships are especially important in El Paso to help students who normally could not afford school, helping to ease the nursing shortage in the city.

The Medical Student Run Clinic provides free primary health care screenings to the Sparks community in Far East El Paso County.

Volunteer work at the clinic provides students from the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine with an opportunity to work in a real clinical environment while also developing a relationship with the community.

Eddie Gutiérrez, vice president of strategic communications, customer and community engagement, said community partnerships and giving are important to El Paso Electric.

“While providing safe, clean, reliable and sustainable energy for our growing community is at the core of our business, serving as a community partner is part of our mission in moving us all forward. The EPE Community Partner Program is incredibly intentional about who is awarded these donations, ensuring that these organizations are making a positive and local impact.”

El Paso Electric gave out awards to more than 70 community partners at the April 11 event.

New Texas Tech/Silva Partnership gives students early access to nursing degree

Starting next school year, a new partnership with the Texas Tech University Health Science Center El Paso will pave the way for EPISD students to earn a registered-nurse degree by the time they are 20 years old.

A new agreement with Texas Tech University Health Science Center gives incoming Silva Health Magnet students an opportunity to earn the pre-requisites necessary to enter the Gayle Greve Hunt School of Nursing upon graduating.

Incoming Silva students enrolled in the program can take up to 60 college credit hours to earn an associate’s degree through El Paso Community College. Upon successful completion, they can receive admission into the accelerated nursing program and earn their RN in 16 months.

“The beauty of this program is that Texas Tech has agreed to extend all of those credits and allow them to enter the bachelor’s of science in nursing program right after high school,” said Patty Benitez, a facilitator in the EPISD Office of Transformation. “It’s a great opportunity for our students. We foresee a high interest.”

Benitez worked closely with Texas Tech while serving as an assistant principal at the campus.

Beyond the educational opportunities, she touts the financial savings for students.

“It’s free of charge for students,” she said. “Silva will offer the whole 60 hours which includes tuition and books. EPCC also offers tutoring resources for our students.”

Dr. Manuel Santa Cruz, Texas Tech assistant dean and chair of the undergraduate program, joined with Benitez and Silva to announce the new partnership and explained the program’s widespread impact for the community.

“We are contributing to the need for nurses in the workforce,” he said. “There’s a huge nursing shortage right now in the community. If we look at the state of Texas, in the year 2022, we will be needing 20,000 nurses needed in state and in West Texas 3,000 to 4,000 nurses and that number continues to grow.”

The program begins in the fall with the incoming class of 2023. Texas Tech has agreed to reserve 10 percent of the admission class each year to students meeting all of the requirements.

Senior Disha Ganjegunte, a student leader involved with the development of the program, looks forward to the opportunities it brings to future Silva students.

“Texas Tech is just a huge part of us coming to Silva Health Magnet,” Ganjegunte said. “This is setting the foundation of not only excelling in academics but also getting that exposure to the medical fields with Texas Tech mentors. It’s a great opportunity that you now have a pathway to get to Texas Tech and actually graduate as a nurse.”

The future neonatologist sees the program as a solid pathway to many healthcare careers.

“Even if our students don’t want to be a nurse, just having that exposure and building up all those prereqs and going through the program, graduating as an RN, is a great resume builder,” she said. “It’s great for just building up all those skills you actually need to be a physician.”

Sophomore Emmanuel Ortega is considering pursuing a nursing degree at Texas Tech after he graduates. He sees the edge this new program gives students interested in a healthcare career.

“This is a huge opportunity and will open lots of doors,” he said. “A lot of students want to be doctors or nurses but they don’t know what it looks like. This is going to be hands-on, which is what you need to get into a medical field. And Silva, just its name, opens doors and I think this is going to so beneficial for the future.”

Story by Reneé de Santos  |  Photo by Erika Reyes – EPISD

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