Gift from Texas Educators to Bolster Hispanic Health Disparities Joint Research Between UTEP and TTUHSC El Paso

Gift from Texas Educators to Bolster Hispanic Health Disparities Joint Research Between UTEP and TTUHSC El Paso

The University of Texas at El Paso and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso will expand research into health conditions affecting Hispanics with support from two Texas educators.

Annette Sobel, M.D., M.S., adjunct professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, and adjunct professor in the Department of Medical Education and in the School of Nursing at TTUHSC in Lubbock; and Robert Duncan, Ph.D., professor and president’s distinguished chair in physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy also at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, will jointly contribute $100,000 dollars throughout five years to establish the Sobel-Duncan Border Health Research Award for faculty research projects at UTEP and TTUHSC El Paso.

The award will be used to fund research that contributes to the improvement of health conditions for residents of the Paso del Norte region and other parts of the U.S.-Mexico border – an area in great need of health research.

“This is the kind of gift that can build research that really makes a difference,” UTEP President Heather Wilson said. “I’m particularly pleased that this is our first collaborative gift with TTUHSC El Paso to work together for the benefit of our community. I am so grateful to Dr. Sobel and Dr. Duncan for their generosity.”

“We are incredibly grateful to Dr. Sobel and Dr. Duncan for generously supporting the continued collaboration between our universities, which ensures our predominantly Hispanic population has a voice in critical research,” said TTUHSC El Paso President Richard Lange, M.D., MBA. “Focusing on the health care needs of our socially and culturally diverse border population, our researchers are working together to study the intricacies of disease and treatment, with the goal of impacting national health at a community level.”

A committee of faculty members from UTEP and TTUHSC El Paso will select one proposal annually for a $20,000 Sobel-Duncan Border Health Research Award.

To further encourage collaborative research between faculty at UTEP and TTUHSC El Paso, the institutions will each contribute $10,000 in matching funds, for a total award of $40,000 for that year, if the winning proposal includes faculty and/or students from both universities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hispanics are 50% more likely to die from diabetes or liver disease than non-Hispanic whites. Hispanics also contend with higher rates of obesity and poorly controlled high blood pressure. These conditions are often exacerbated by factors that also disproportionately affect Hispanics, including language and cultural barriers, lack of access to preventive care, and the lack of health insurance, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“By working together, TTUHSC El Paso and UTEP have demonstrated that they can create pathways for research that will advance health care in the Borderland in concrete and significant ways,” Dr. Sobel said. “Our hope is that this gift will help attract even greater support for this important work.”

The type of collaborative research that Dr. Sobel and Dr. Duncan hope to encourage would add to a growing list of projects in which faculty members from UTEP and TTUHSC El Paso – and, in some cases, their students – are working side by side. This includes research on antiviral compounds for treating COVID-19, improved treatments for a type of leukemia that appears to have a severe impact on Hispanic patients, health education that better prepares students for the unique needs of patients in the Paso del Norte region, and several others.

“We believe in the mission that UTEP and TTUHSC El Paso share to expand research activity that improves the lives of the people of their community,” Duncan said. “This is a partnership that works, and we are proud to be a part of it.”

About The University of Texas at El Paso

The University of Texas at El Paso is America’s leading Hispanic-serving university. Located at the westernmost tip of Texas, where three states and two countries converge along the Rio Grande, 94% of our more than 24,000 students are minorities, and half are the first in their families to go to college. UTEP offers 169 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs at the only open-access, top-tier research university in America.

About Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso

TTUHSC El Paso is the only health sciences center on the U.S.-Mexico border and serves 108 counties in West Texas that have been historically underserved. It is designated as a Title V Hispanic-Serving Institution, preparing the next generation of health care heroes, 48% of whom identify as Hispanic and are often first-generation college students.

Research conducted in TTUHSC El Paso’s four Centers of Emphasis focuses on conditions directly impacting Hispanic populations, including diabetes, cancer, infectious diseases and neurological disorders. University researchers also study health disparities, helping to meet health care challenges in the Borderplex region.