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UTMB Alumnus and Wife, Drs. Edgar and Imelda Cortes,
Will Match Students' Contributions Toward New Health Education Center
January 2017

Every second matters when treating a critically ill patient.

Medical team members must focus on their roles despite the din around them.

There’s little room for error.

This kind of realistic scenario will be among those replicated during training sessions when UTMB’s new Health Education Center opens in 2019. The center will enable medical, nursing, health professional and graduate students to learn alongside one another in high-realism, low-risk simulated settings as they master clinical skills before caring for actual patients.

“That’s what it’s all about,” said Dr. Edgar Cortes, a longtime Corpus Christi pediatrician and former director of Driscoll Children’s Hospital Emergency Department. “Medical schools should be introducing a team-based approach early on in the game."

Dr. Cortes, a 1969 alumnus and his wife, Dr. Imelda Cortes, were eager to lend their support when they heard details about the center. The couple, who are dedicated benefactors at UTMB, generously decided to match students’ contributions toward the center’s construction.

“The matching gift from the Cortes’ family is the kind of investment that has helped shape this institution throughout its history,” said Dr. David L. Callender, UTMB president.  “This generous gift recognizes the importance of teamwork in providing quality and compassionate patient care and allows us to expand opportunities for simulated, inter-professional training to our students."

Through its Innovations in Mind fundraising initiative, UTMB launched a family campaign for students earlier this month.

First-year medical student Samee Hameed, who is serving as one of four chairs for the student campaign, applauded Dr. Cortes for his generosity and offered reasons why his fellow students should also contribute.

“He’s helping to better the future of health care and the future of this university, and that’s what we should also be doing as students,” he said. “Giving to the center shows that students are excited for the future and what it holds―this is going to be our Old Red. This is our legacy on campus."

Faculty and staff will also have a chance to contribute to the Health Education Center during the second phase of the family campaign, which begins Feb. 2.

The bulk of the funds for the center’s $90.4 million cost will come from $67.8 million in tuition revenue bonds, while private philanthropy will be raised for the remaining $22.6 million.

The five story, 160,000 square foot center will also fulfill a critical need for additional training space on the UTMB campus. The center will be the first significant addition to UTMB’s educational infrastructure in four decades.

A New Approach

Through the Health Education Center, UTMB students will learn to hone their skills as well as the roles their counterparts play in delivering patient care. For most health care professionals, this kind of interaction typically occurs in the field following graduation.

It’s an approach Dr. Cortes finds appealing.

In traditional health education centers, he said, nurses and medical students are “cloistered” in separate spaces and are rarely given the chance to interact. The center will foster mutual respect for one another and give UTMB graduates an advantage when they begin their careers.

Giving Back

Dr. Cortes began medical school at the tender age of 17.

Two other medical schools turned him down because of his age.

At first, Dr. Cortes said he wasn’t sure he’d be accepted at UTMB. During his interview, it was suggested he consider taking a year off or maybe enrolling in humanities courses. He was also asked why he was in such a hurry to begin medical school.

“I quoted Hippocrates, the father of medicine: ‘Art is long, life is short,’ ” Dr. Cortes said.

After he graduated, Dr. Cortes served eight years in the U.S. Navy, completing his residency at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Va.  He joined the Children’s Clinic in Corpus Christi in 1976, where he continues to practice today among 26 other physicians. One of them is his son, Dr. E. Richard Cortes, a 1995 UTMB alumnus.

He said it’s the greatest compliment a son can pay a parent to follow in his footsteps.

Dr. Cortes values family above all―he honored his parents by establishing a scholarship at UTMB in their names. He and his wife also established a namesake scholarship that also benefits medical students. He’s also generous with his time as a member of UTMB’s Development Board and was active in the Working Wonders Campaign, which recently concluded.

“UTMB has a very special place in my heart,” Dr. Cortes said. “UTMB gave me a chance and I will never forget that.




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