02 Feb 2022

Healthcare Advisory Commissioner meets with TWC Commissioner Julian Alvarez

The Laredo Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) under the direction of President & CEO Gene Lindgren, has teamed up with several community and education leaders to organize a healthcare advisory to address the underserved needs of the Laredo Community.  The healthcare advisory is spearheaded by LEDC board members, Dr. Rolando (Rolly) Ortiz, Killam Development Chief Operating Officer, and Mr. Elmo Lopez, Jr., Gateway Community Health Center CEO. 

On Thursday, February 22, 2022, the LEDC held a stakeholder dialogue hosting education leaders in Laredo – representing UISD Superintendent David Gonzalez, Ms. Claudia Gonzalez CTE Coordinator, from Laredo College, Interim President, Dr. Marisela Rodriguez-Tijerina, representing TAMIU President Dr. Arenas, Dr. O’Meara Dean of Education, from UT Health Education and Research – Ms. Adriana Nunemaker and representing the Workforce Solutions of South Texas – Mr. Rogelio Trevino.  Also in attendance was the healthcare advisory chair for Hospitality and Retention, Gateway Health Community Center Director of Marketing, Ms. Mara Lopez, and Laredo EDC board member, Laredo College Senior Director of External Affairs, Mr. Michael Gonzalez.  The goal of the healthcare education meeting led by Laredo College Associate Dean of Recruitment, Dr. Diana Ortiz, was to make the connection of the 60X30Tx Plan and the Tri-agency initiatives and learn more about the funding resources, challenges, and trends in Texas shared by our special guests, Texas Workforce Commissioner, Julian Alvarez, and his Chief of Staff, Ms. Jeanette De La Cruz. 

Dr. Rolly Ortiz reminded the committee, “We need to come up with an intentional pathway that starts with the ISD’s, transitions into higher education, and ends up in our skilled healthcare workforce. This is key in this process.  This implementation will require participation from the City of Laredo, the County of Webb, the education system, and community partnerships.  Our goal is to develop this healthcare pathway and workforce template that the Laredo EDC can emulate in the three other areas of regional need for Laredo: Government, Transportation/Logistics, and Education.  With this template in place, we can repeat the process and the entire Laredo community will be the benefactor.” 

Mr. Elmo Lopez applauded the current efforts once again between Laredo College, TAMIU, and UIW Residency programs but stated, “It is simply not enough – we need to ‘grow our own” and get innovative with our healthcare pipeline strategies which is why the Laredo EDC created this Healthcare Advisory.” 

Dr. Marisela Rodriguez Tijerina, Interim President at Laredo College, likewise applauded these efforts and added, “The difficulty in credentialing more healthcare professionals is multifaceted.  One possible solution Is by recreating models into our educational training. “

Commissioner Alvarez was forthcoming about the state of healthcare in Texas. “You are not alone in this plight.” Texas will have a deficit of 57,012 registered nurses (RNs) by 2023 according to a 2020 study from the Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies.  “We are committed to supporting South Texas education systems to help combat this dire shortage.”

“The Laredo EDC Healthcare Advisory is on the right track and there are some relief opportunities. Recently, Texas Workforce has committed $5 million dollars in Apprenticeship Expansion funding to create accelerated training and $10 million dollars in WIOA funding to pay nursing students during clinical rotations.  This is one of a few innovative programs being recommended. I applaud all of you for trying to find a solution to this shortage and invite you to participate with us at a March workshop to help model and create a curriculum for nursing apprenticeships.  We need your insight.”

Mr. Lindgren echoed the commitment of the Laredo EDC.  “As this healthcare pipeline of community leaders develops in addressing the needs of Laredo, we will begin to see the transformation of an industry and that is exciting.  In the end, our goal is to create economic development supported by our own skilled workforce for all four areas of need in Laredo. I am excited that the Laredo EDC has taken the lead and created an aligned initiative that will benefit all stakeholders.”  For more information about the LEDC Healthcare Advisory, contact Mr. Gene Lindgren at 956-722-0563.