UTHealth CRU at UT Brownsville

800 West Jefferson St., Edelstein Building, Suite 230pic of Brownsville campus

Brownsville, Texas 78520

Phone:  956-882-6677     

Director: Joseph McCormick, MD
Medical Director: Rose Zavaletta Gowen, MD
Nursing Clinical Supervisor: Anne Renfro, MSN, RN
Research Nurse: Julie Gomez Ramirez, BSN, RN  Julie.Gomez.Ramirez@uth.tmc.edu
Contact Person:  Christina Villarreal  Christina.Villarreal@uth.tmc.edu

Also seehttp://www.hhrc.info/

Since 2004, the Brownsville CRU has been an integral part of the UTHSC-H General Clinical Research Center, which is now part of the CCTS. The unit is affiliated with The University of Texas School of Public Health (SPH) Brownsville Regional Campus and its Hispanic Health Research Center which focuses on diseases that are common in Hispanic populations. Brownsville is part of Texas’ Lower Rio Grande Valley, which is more than 86% Hispanic and has a high incidence of chronic degenerative diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, and coronary disease. The area also has severe health disparities and a high proportion of uninsured and indigent inhabitants. Through their programs, the SPH Brownsville Regional Campus, the Hispanic Health Research Center, and the Brownsville CRU hope to improve the health of the local community.

To conduct clinical research in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, the Brownsville CRU uses a unique team approach tailored to the local community. CRU investigators support the use of promotoras, who are Spanish-speaking community health workers who assist in subject recruitment and are trained in human subject protection, good clinical practice and the intricacies of the studies on which they are working. The promotoras work in various settings in the community to identify potential subjects for clinical studies.

 map showing location of Brownsvill bottom tip of TexasThe Brownsville CCTS CRU is situated in Brownsville, TX, less than a mile from the U.S./Mexico border. It is located at the Valley Baptist Brownsville Medical Center, close to the UT School of Public Health Regional Campus (RAHC) (shown above), which is located on the host campus of UT-Brownsville. The local population is about 95% Mexican American.

The Brownsville CRU is in the Edelstein Building of the Valley Baptist Hospital-Brownsville, adjacent to the main hospital buildings. The CRU facility is open Monday through Friday during business hours and is staffed by a nurse, a medical technologist, and a business manager. The unit is 2,382 sq ft, all dedicated for outpatient services, and includes a waiting room, 4 examination rooms, a laboratory area for sample processing and storage, an area for charting by staff and investigators, office space for patient scheduling and follow-up, and an interview/conference room for long patient interviews, staff in-services, and investigator meetings.

The Brownsville CRU encourages inquiries from investigators who wish to conduct their own studies in its Hispanic community or to participate in ongoing studies in the CRU. The following ongoing studies in the CRU are open to other investigators:

  • Cameron County Hispanic Cohort (CCHC).  This is a cohort of 2500+ randomly selected individuals in the community. There is extensive socioeconomic, family history, clinical data, and mental health data on the participants. Biological specimens have been collected for metabolic, genetic, molecular, and immunological assessment. This cohort is available for studies ranging from epidemiological studies of prevalence, clinical aspects, and basic mechanisms of disease in Mexican-American populations to evaluation of intervention strategies to behavior modification. The CRU supports the expansion of the cohort study to other cities along the South-Texas Border region to include a cohort in Harlingen, McAllen, and Laredo, TX.
  • Sub studies of the CCHC :
    • Early onset of diabetes cohort. This is a cohort of more than 50 patients who were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes before the age of 30 (including 23 diagnosed at 18 or younger) and their immediate family members. This cohort is available for behavioral, genetic, clinical, and epidemiological studies of early-onset type 2 diabetes.
    • Five year follow up study. This study follows the CCHC participants after a period of five years to reassess the individual and extensively document changes from the baseline cohort examination. There are over 750 follow up exams completed to date.
    • Diabetes Risk Study. This study enrolled and followed up 300 participants with impaired fasting glucose (>100 mg/dl but <126 mg/dl) over the course of four years. There are data for at least four study visits per year per participant to examine the clinical, socioeconomic, behavioral, and biological factors that lead to diabetes development in some individuals.
    • Imaging studies. Participants of the CCHC and the sub studies above are also examined with ultrasound.  The CRU supports ultrasound examinations of the carotid arteries, brachial artery, echocardiogram and liver for evaluation of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.
    • PACE behavioral intervention trial. This study has enrolled and followed 500 participants in order evaluate the effectiveness of promotora interventions related to diabetes and cancer prevention.
    • Border Plex. This study examined 45 participants with controlled versus uncontrolled diabetes for pulmonary diseases.

Tu Salud, Si Cuenta!

This extensive community outreach program uses behavioral journalism to transmit messages to the community by TV, radio, internet, and newspapers. It is extensively evaluated and is supported by a network of promotoras. 

Tuberculosis and diabetes. This is an extensive field and laboratory program that includes a number of studies. Patients with tuberculosis are being recruited in three busy clinics, two in Texas and one in Matamoros, Mexico. Epidemiological, sociodemographic, and medical histories are collected. Biological specimens are taken for molecular and immunological studies to elucidate the immunological mechanisms that make diabetes patients particularly susceptible to tuberculosis. Patients are followed throughout treatment.

Cervical cancer studies. In the Lower Rio Grande Valley, the rates of cervical cancer are among the highest in the United States, and patients are being seen at increasingly young ages, even in their teens. Retrospective and prospective studies are under way to characterize the epidemiology of cervical dysplasia in this community and to determine whether, as is suspected, poor control of glucose metabolism contributes to the high rate of cervical cancer. Planned studies include testing of a new HPV vaccine (in conjunction with the Memorial Hermann CCTS CRU and Baylor College of Medicine) and studies of treatment of gestational diabetes, a major complication of pregnancy in this population. 

For more information on these studies, on conducting other studies in the Brownsville CRU, or on the Brownsville CRU in general, see http://www.hhrc.info/ or contact Christina Villarreal (Christina.Villarreal@uth.tmc.edu) 956-882-6677. To use the Brownsville CRU, investigators must complete the UTHealth iRIS/CCTS application UTHealth iRIS/CCTS application.

staff pic

Friendly staff

staff pic

El personal es amable
is there to assist you

staff pic

está ahí para ayudarle

staff pic

staff pic

Every step of the way!

staff pic

Cada paso del camino!

UTHealth CRU
Memorial Hermann-TMC

6411 Fannin St., RPV 314
Houston, Tx 77030
Google map

PHONE: 713-704-4137

UTHealth CRU
MD Anderson Cancer Center

1515 Holcombe Blvd - Unit 367
Houston, Texas 77030
Google map

PHONE: 713-563-0359

UTHealth CRU
Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital 

5656 Kelley Street
Houston, Texas 77026
Chief of Staff Office, 1D 02
Google map

PHONE:  713-500-7918

UTHealth CRU

800 West Jefferson St. , Edelstein Building, Suite 230
Brownsville, Texas 78520
Google map

PHONE:  956-882-6677