Keep the MCA vision
by State Sen. José Rodríguez—
The Cardwell Collaborative, which broke ground Feb. 9, 2015, officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony last month. With 60,000 square feet of cutting edge technology, the building is a testament to our community’s vision, persistence, and potential.
The Cardwell Collaborative – an office, research, and tech hub – occupies a spot alongside I-10 just east of Raynolds, as part of the Medical Center of the Americas (MCA) campus. In essence, it’s a dream factory for 21st Century entrepreneurs, and something every El Pasoan should be familiar with and speak of often.
Why, and what is the MCA? A quick refresher:
· The MCA campus is a physical location, encompassing important public assets such as University Medical Center of El Paso (UMC), El Paso Children’s Hospital, and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) El Paso, with a land use plan that contemplates public and private healthcare delivery, medical education, and research sector growth. It is operated by the MCA Foundation whose mission is “to improve access to quality healthcare in the Paso del Norte region by building a better healthcare infrastructure, providing superior healthcare educational opportunities and attracting researchers and healthcare providers to the region.”
· The concept grew out of the El Paso Economic Summit in 1998. There was agreement that El Paso had a unique opportunity to promote education, access to health care, and economic development by focusing on development of a four-year medical school and other health-related facilities. We saw a chance to address health access and outcome disparities, and the shortage of doctors, nurses, and other health professionals in the region, while developing a health care cluster that could rival the centers in Houston and San Antonio.
· Over the next two decades, our community reached milestone after milestone. First, we worked diligently to establish the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine. In 2009, the first class was seated in the only four-year medical school on the U.S.-Mexico border. In 2013, TTUHSC El Paso was established as an independent university, and consists of the PLFSOM, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, and the Gayle Greve Hunt School of Nursing. We transformed R.E. Thomason General Hospital, now known as UMC, into a state-of-the-art hospital, shedding its previous reputation as a last resort for those who could not afford to go elsewhere. We built El Paso Children’s Hospital. As part of all these efforts, we’ve recruited top doctors and researchers to our community.
· And now, we have the Cardwell Collaborative.
The building, set on 36 piers drilled 75 feet down, is the first in El Paso outside of Fort Bliss that has fiber to every desktop and lab. It is a marvelous piece of engineering, design, and technology.
The 3rd floor contains the first private biomedical incubator in El Paso, available to technology start-up companies that spin out of our regional universities or that are attracted to the region. On the ground level, the High Performance Computing Room has steel-re-enforced, three-foot thick floors with two dedicated fluid coolers. The MCA also is expecting to achieve LEED Silver, which assesses a building’s energy efficiency and other factors.
Additionally, the MCA owns 10 more acres on the MCA campus, providing room to grow.
Taken together, the assets in place in the heart of the region’s urban core – TTUHSC, UMC, El Paso Children’s, the Cardwell Collaborative – are a visible marker of the progress we have made, and the future of the MCA, which still has a way to go to fulfill its potential and promise. We have the talent in the region, and the amenities – cultural and technological – to recruit entrepreneurs and scientists from elsewhere.
Our community has embarked upon a visionary effort to grow educational and economic opportunity, while increasing access to quality, affordable health care. This is no small vision, and when community leaders speak of the region’s major drivers – Fort Bliss, our universities, and international trade – and look for opportunities to ensure their future, we must also add the MCA to that list.
José Rodríguez represents Texas Senate District 29, which extends from El Paso to the Big Bend. Sen. Rodríguez currently serves as the Chairman of the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus, and is a member of the Senate Committees on Education; Health and Human Services; Veteran Affairs and Military Installations; Nominations; and Agriculture, Water, and Rural Affairs.