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A new $70 million facility is coming to the Medical Center
October 18, 2017

Silvia Foster-Frau, San Antonio Express-News

Outfitted in bright white hard hats and gripping a dozen shovels with elaborate orange bows, civic and University of Texas leaders stood poised atop a mound of dirt in the Medical Center area, the future site of a $70 million facility.

"Count to three, and all you do - now, don't throw it all up in the air," instructed UT Health San Antonio President William Henrich.

Among the dignitaries flipping soil for the new location of the 16-year-old Sam and Ann Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies were Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, Sen. José Menéndez and Councilman Manny Pelaez.

UT Regent James "Rad" Weaver, the CEO of McCombs Partners, joined Nicolas Musi, the institute's director, Ann Barshop, one of its namesakes and a longtime donor to the university, and UT System Chancellor William McRaven in giving remarks.

The institute now resides at UT Health's 186-acre Texas Research Park Campus on the far West Side. University officials said the new location across from the Greehey Academic and Research Campus will centralize operations and permit more collaboration between the institute and San Antonio's medical community.

"Bringing Barshop to the medical center puts us front and center with the patients, and allows us to interact with the community much more directly," said Dr. Ronald Rodriguez, interim dean of UT Health's School of Medicine.

The building, at 107,768 square feet and three stories tall, will have an open-air bridge that crosses Floyd Curl Drive to connect to UT Health's South Texas Research Facility. Construction is expected to take two years.

Musi said 10 more faculty will be hired for the new building, likely bringing along teams of five or six each, in addition to the approximately 200 faculty investigators currently at work throughout the university.

Straus said the study of aging is especially important - "and I'm not just saying that because I'm closing in on 60" - because Texas is home to more than 3.2 million people over 65.
The new location is expected to help move research knowledge developed at the institute into physicians' clinical practices, described by Henrich as "from the bench to the bedside" and known in science communities as translational research.

"As we get older, those processes that start to fail are the same processes that give rise to cancer and heart disease and dementia, and a variety of other diagnoses," Rodriguez said. "Understanding how these things work give us insights to all the kinds of diseases we face as a nation."

Ann Barshop and her late husband Sam Barshop, who was a UT System regent, have given about $8 million over the years to what is now UT Health San Antonio, formerly the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, including major donations to establish the Barshop Institute in 2001 out of earlier research efforts.

When McRaven, a retired U.S. Navy admiral, spoke to the crowd of faculty and administrators, he compared them all to "plank owners" - the first to operate a ship when it goes on active duty.

"This facility, that we're setting in motion, launching today, has a veritable galaxy of plank owners," McRaven said. "We all have a role to play to make sure we make the most of the opportunity that this building represents."

sfosterfrau@express-news.net

 

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