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First Hispanic UT Chancellor receives national honor

By Angela Covo | 03 de julio de 2013

San Antonio.- Last week, Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), announced Dr. Francisco Cigarroa will be the recipient of The Chair's Award, one of CHCI’s highest honors presented to one “who has dedicated his or her public or private career to improving the lives of Hispanic Americans.” Photo: Dr. Francisco Cigarroa, first Hispanic to be named chancellor of The University of Texas System, to be awarded top honor from CHCI. (courtesy photo)


The award is to be officially conferred at CHCI's 36th Annual Awards Gala, one of the largest gatherings of Latino leaders in the country, on Oct. 2 in Washington, D.C. as part of the group’s celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

In a release, Hinojosa explained the award recognizes the Chancellor’s contributions and leadership in medicine and education

"I am so pleased to recognize and celebrate Dr. Cigarroa as a positive role model for all Americans. His personal path and many professional successes prove that the American Dream is achievable through higher education, hard work, and most importantly by giving back to our community," Hinojosa said.

Cigarroa, born in Laredo, is one of ten children and a third-generation physician.

He graduated from Laredo’s J. W. Nixon High School and his stellar academic career led him to Yale University, where he earned a B.A. in biology. He returned to Texas to study medicine at the prestigious University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center-Dallas and graduated with honors in 1983.

As a physician, Cigarroa’s curriculum vitae tells the story of a hard-working, dedicated professional and natural leader.

According to the University of Texas Health Science Center-San Antonio (UTHSC), during postgraduate training, he rose through the ranks to chief resident in General Surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and continued to pursue even more training. He completed fellowships in Pediatric Surgery and Transplantation Surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. By 2011, the accomplished physician was awarded the Massachusetts General Hospital Trustees’ Medal in recognition of his contributions to the advancement of the practice of medicine and patient care. 

Cigarroa joined the faculty at UTHSC in 1995, where he served as director of pediatric surgery before serving as president of the institution for almost a decade from 2000 to 2009. During his tenure, in 2003, former President George W. Bush appointed him to serve on the President’s Committee on the National Medal of Science. In 2009, Dr. Cigarroa became the first Hispanic to be named chancellor of The University of Texas System, overseeing one of the largest public systems of higher education in the nation.


As Chancellor, Cigarroa was at the helm last year when the UT System’s Board of Regents unanimously voted to join the education revolution by partnering with edX to offer online courses.

“New technologies are positively impacting how professors teach and how course content is delivered,” Cigarroa explained last October. “The University of Texas System will help lead this revolution and fundamentally alter the direction of online education. We are excited about this partnership with edX and honored to be in the company of such exceptional institutions as MIT, Harvard and Berkeley. The mission of edX aligns perfectly with that of the UT System and keeps the learner as its central focus.”

Today, the physician, who continues to perform liver and kidney transplant surgeries, also continues to advocate that education is the key to closing the gap and improving life for everyone.

"I am incredibly honored to receive this award from such a prestigious group that works to promote access and opportunity," Cigarroa said. "CHCI's mission is incredibly important and perfectly aligned with what we at The University of Texas System are working toward. As both a physician and educator, I truly believe that education saves lives. We are working to save and improve lives by creating pathways to higher education."

Dr. Cigarroa currently serves on the National Research Council Committee on Research Universities and on the American Academy Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences. In addition, he was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as a commissioner on the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. He is also a member of the National Academies Institute of Medicine and a Fellow of the American Arts and Sciences. 

According to CHCI, the 2013 Annual Awards Gala will convene the nation's largest and most prestigious gathering of Hispanic nonpartisan, public, and private sector leaders at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The group will mark the occasion by awarding its two highest honors—the annual Chair's Award and the CHCI Medallion of Excellence awardees.

These awards are intended to highlight “the many rich contributions made by Latinos who have not only succeeded in their individual careers, but who also serve as positive role models and empower Latino youth to believe that anything is achievable through higher education, hard work, and pursuit of the American Dream.”

CHCI is a nonprofit and nonpartisan 501(c)3 organization which provides leadership development programs and educational services to students and young emerging leaders. The CHCI Board of Directors is comprised of Hispanic members of Congress, nonprofit, union and corporate leaders. Visit hhm.chci.org to learn more.

Angela Covo is senior writer and managing editor at La Prensa San Antonio. She can be reached at angela.covo@gmail.com.

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