(COLLEGE STATION, TX) — State Sen. Steve Ogden, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, a member of the same committee, recently visited the Texas A&M Health Science Center South Texas Center in McAllen.

The visit, which served as preparation for the 2007 legislative session, was part of Sen. Hinojosa’s tour of his district to show Sen. Ogden some of the key issues facing South Texas. Dr. Juan F. Castro, M.D., M.B.A., HSC South Texas Center director, briefed the senators on the Center’s mission and its community programs.

The senators met with Center staff and faculty, as well as community leaders who have partnered with the HSC South Texas Center. These community efforts include prescription assistance programs for working families, diabetes education outreach and research, and lowering childhood obesity.

State Sens. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa and Steve Ogden recently visited the Texas A&M Health Science Center South Texas Center in McAllen in preparation for the 2007 legislative session. Pictured are, from left, Lisa Killion, U.H.S. and M.P.H. student; Sen. Hinojosa; Dores Jay-Pang, M.A., M.P.H, director, Center of Excellence Migrant Health, HSC South Texas Center; Aurelio Martinez, L.B.S.W., Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Karen Denison, R.N., HSC School of Rural Public Health at McAllen, Diabetes Education Program; Nelda Mier, Ph.D., assistant professor, HSC School of Rural Public Health at McAllen; Cynthia Salinas, Hidalgo-Starr County Medical Alliance; Juan F. Castro, M.D., M.B.A., director, HSC South Texas Center; Dr. Alicia Omaña, M.P.H., assistant director, HSC South Texas Center; the Rev. Edward Atangana, Diocese of Brownsville, Pharmacy Assistance Program; and Sen. Ogden. Not pictured is Juanita Valdez-Cox, La Union del Pueblo Entero, Medical-Dental Assistance Program. (Photo courtesy Texas A&M Health Science Center.)

“Our staff, faculty and community partners were honored to have the opportunity to directly update our senators on the programs we are working on to improve the health of our community,” Dr. Castro said. “We are proud to inform our senator that the funding he has appropriated for our area is being allocated for educational programs and initiatives that improve wellness and prevent disease.”

Sen. Hinojosa, D-Mission, said the visit was an opportunity for Sen. Ogden, R-Bryan, to see firsthand how effectively preventative health and medical education programs are working along the Texas-Mexico border.

“I wanted to show Sen. Ogden that our local government, our communities and our educational institutions are very much committed and invested in working to overcome many of the challenges we face on the border, such as high diabetes rates and a large number of uninsured,” Sen. Hinojosa said. “We have a number of top-notch programs in diabetes education and preventative health care, and I wanted to assure him that any money Texas spends here is money well invested.”

Community leaders who met with the senators included the Rev. Edward Atangana, Diocese of Brownsville, Pharmacy Assistance Program; Juanita Cox-Valdez, La Union del Pueblo Entero, Medical-Dental Assistance Program; Cynthia Salinas, Hidalgo-Starr County Medical Alliance, Back-to-School Health Fair and Child Obesity Project; Dores Jay-Pang, M.A., M.P.H., director, Center of Excellence Migrant Health, HSC South Texas Center; Lisa Killion, U.H.S. and M.P.H. student; Aurelio Martinez, L.B.S.W., Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Nelda Mier, Ph.D., assistant professor, HSC School of Rural Public Health at McAllen; Karen Denison, R.N., HSC School of Rural Public Health at McAllen, Diabetes Education Program; and Dr. Alicia Omaña, M.P.H., assistant director, HSC School of Rural Public Health at McAllen.

“Our Center’s initiatives, thru our mobile medical unit and pharmacy assistance programs, fulfill the mission of the Texas A&M Health Science Center by improving healthcare access in the most underserved areas,” Dr. Omaña said.

Sen. Hinojosa represents the people of District 20 in the Texas Senate and has continually worked to bring educational and economic opportunities to South Texas. Sen. Ogden has been a leader on budget issues, educational funding, child protection, transportation safety and criminal justice. The Senate Finance Committee on which both men serve is one of the most powerful committees in the Texas Legislature and is responsible for writing the state budget.

The Texas A&M Health Science Center provides the state with health education, outreach and research. Its five components located in communities throughout Texas are Baylor College of Dentistry, the College of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Institute of Biosciences and Technology and the School of Rural Public Health.

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