EDITORIAL: Solid tenure

Stable stewardship has marked Krouse’s med school leadership

Dr. John Krouse has announced he plans to step down as dean of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Medical School when the 2021 academic year begins next August. Krouse, who assumed the post in July 2017, said he will stay on as part of the faculty; he is a specialist in diseases and surgery of the head and throat.

Krouse is the second full-time dean for the school, which took on its first students in 2015. In these formative years he has helped build the school that has built a solid foundation and in many ways already is operating much like an institution with a much longer history.

As in any new enterprise, the first few years focus on growth, not only bringing in top students, faculty and staff, but also building and expanding facilities where they will study and work. In just the past year UTRGV has inaugurated several programs that include a new biomedical research building and the South Texas Center for Excellence in Cancer Research, an immunology program that’s invaluable in an area where some cancers such as cervical cancer appear up to three times as often as in the rest of Texas.

To make such growth possible, a dean not only must work with designers and contractors to plan facilities so they will best meet the needs of the university and the programs they house, but he also must develop support for the projects that inspires the support that makes them possible — not only from the UT System and legislature that provide significant funding, but also with local doctors and health care providers. Krouse’s work in selling the UTRGV medical school has brought in significant investment, including more than $50 million from the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation, $38 million of which built the Neuroscience Institute in Harlingen, which focuses on the spine and nervous systems. Krouse also has helped build strong partnerships with Doctors Hospital at Renaissance in Edinburg and other enterprises that provide professional facilities as well as offering internships and residencies for UTRGV students and graduates.

Where resources are short, Krouse has helped serve students by teaming up with other institutions, such as the recent dual-degree doctorate program in data research and interpretation UTRGV now offers with the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston School of Public Health.

With Krouse at the helm, the institution has quickly established itself as a key resource in improving general health conditions in an area that has one of the nation’s highest rates of poverty and uninsured residents, and among the lowest rates of physicians per population. That public outreach has helped invaluably during the COVID-19 pandemic, establishing labs that helped provide and analyze tests for the coronavirus, eventually handling up to 1,000 tests a day.

It also includes expanded use of the medical school’s unique UniMóvil, a 40-foot mobile clinic that serves residents in the Valley’s rural areas and colonias. The unit has proved its value beyond South Texas, having been dispatched to Houston to help flooding victims there. Krouse’s tenure has been one of solid growth, relatively free of the growing pains one might expect of a new institution. As that growth continues, he has left a solid foundation upon which to build.