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Psychiatrist to Lead New Texas Medical School

McALLEN, Texas ― A psychiatrist with previous stints at Texas medical institutions will be the founding dean of the new School of Medicine at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, the University of Texas System announced Friday.

Dr. Francisco Fernandez, 62, a professor and chairman of psychiatry and neurosciences at the University of South Florida College of Medicine in Tampa, will lead the medical school at the newly formed UT Rio Grande Valley.

The pick was first reported by The Monitor newspaper in McAllen on Thursday.

Fernandez previously worked in Texas at UT MD Anderson Cancer Center and Baylor College of Medicine, according to a statement released by the system. He is an expert in the brain’s relationship to behavior.

“I am excited and humbled by this tremendous opportunity to build the UT Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine into a world-class educational center,” Fernandez said in the statement. “The chance to build a medical school from the ground up in a region as richly diverse and wonderful as South Texas is a dream come true.”

Fernandez emigrated to the U.S. from Cuba as a child.

The new medical school is expected to enroll its first class in the fall of 2016. It will be part of the newly formed University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, which combined UT Pan American and UT-Brownsville.

In May 2012, the system’s regents endorsed developing a new medical school in the Rio Grande Valley.

Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, a surgeon from Laredo who announced earlier this week he will be stepping down from the position, had made establishing a medical school in the fast-growing border region one of his priorities.

The school will be established around existing UT System health facilities in Hidalgo and Cameron counties. The area has long been considered medically underserved and local officials hope graduating doctors will establish their practices in the region.

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