from the office of State Senator Judith Zaffirini

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Nick Almanza
(512) 463-0121
June 26, 2006

MID RIO GRANDE BORDER AREA HEALTH EDUCATION CENTER HONORS SENATOR ZAFFIRINI FOR OUTSTANDING LEADERSHIP

(LAREDO) – Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, expressed praise, gratitude and spoke of positive collaborative efforts by South Texas' health and education communities as she was honored as "Our Founding Leader in Health Education" by the Mid Rio Grande Border Area Health Education Center (AHEC). Dr. Gladys C. Keene, AHEC Executive Director, said the senator was recognized for her countless legislative contributions benefiting their programs as well as health and human services and education programs throughout their 38-county region.

The ceremony, held at the Laredo Campus Extension of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA) on Monday (June 26), celebrated AHEC's 13-year old program. It was hosted by the AHEC board of trustees, which is chaired by Mercurio Martinez, and sponsored by the Laredo National Bank/BBVA Group.

Senator Zaffirini and AHEC trustees also honored three charter members, namely, Dr. Joaquin Cigarroa; Gary G. Jacobs, chair of the Board of Directors of the LNB/BBVA Group; and Vidal Treviño, retired Laredo Independent School District superintendent.

They were joined by prominent members of Laredo's health and education communities, including Dr. Francisco Cigarroa, president of UTHSCSA; Dr. Ramón Dovalina, president of Laredo Community College; and Al Chapa, CEO of Doctor's Hospital. Elected officials present included Mayor Raul Salinas; County Judge-Elect Danny Valdez; Representatives Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, and Rick Noriega, D-Houston; and members of area boards of trustees.

"This is a tremendous honor that I share with all leaders and volunteers who support AHEC," Senator Zaffirini said. "I am delighted to work with so many ardent supporters of education and health and human services, especially in my hometown of Laredo and for Senate District 21.

"AHEC has enjoyed 13 years of success, which can be attributed to its collaboration of doctors, public health professionals, local leaders and citizens, all of whom are concerned about the betterment of our community."

AHEC, a 501(c)3 organization, was established in 1993 as a community and scholastic partnership to address the needs of health care professionals for academic health resources. Its programs promote a healthy South Texas community via health career services, communitybased and educational programs. AHEC currently assists more than 5,000 students and health care professionals annually.

Senator Zaffirini has won more than 535 awards for her professional and public service work, including more than 90 for communication projects. She continues to receive awards for her public service and professional work. Awards received this year include the Texas Advocacy Award from the American Cancer Society, the Texas Hospital Advocacy Tribute from the Texas Hospital Association and being named an honorary nun by the Sisters of Mercy and Mercy Ministries of Laredo.

In 2005 Senator Zaffirini and her colleagues on the Appropriations Conference Committee increased funding for financial aid by $18 million, for health-related institutions by $408.1 million, and for two-year institutions by $229.8 million.

Fourth in seniority in the 31-member Texas Senate, the senator is the namesake of United ISD's Senator Judith Zaffirini Elementary School, Laredo Community College's Senator Judith Zaffirini Library, Lake Casa Blanca International State Park's Senator Judith Zaffirini Road and the Judith Zaffirini Program in Edinburg that focuses on fighting drug addictions of men, women and children.

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