Villas, who also is an associate professor in the Department of Health and Kinesiology at UT Pan American, gave the UTMBHCO much of the credit for his appointment.
"This is a tremendous honor, not just for myself, but also for the Border Health Coordination Office and for our area," Villas said. "It (appointment) has a lot to do with the activity of our office. I think this is going to be a great opportunity to focus attention on the border."
Villas is in Washington, D.C., this week to meet with other members of the commission, which is under the administration of the Office of International Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
"The commission is charged with trying to bring collaboration to a lot of federally funded health projects on the border," he said. "Right now it’s a very broad umbrella that we’re functioning under. One of the things we’ll do at this meeting (in Washington, D.C.) is try to develop a mission and vision for this commission. I can tell you from my personal conviction and of other members of the commission that I know, it will probably have a public health bent to it."
The commission is made up of two nominated members and the commissioner of health of each of the four border states. U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna E. Shalala is the commission’s 13th member, Villas said.
The commission was created with the intent of finding ways to improve the health status of Americans living along the border. It was established in 1994 by the United States-Mexico Border Health Commission Act (Public Law 103-400).
Villas holds a doctorate in education in community health education with a collateral in public health from the University of Tennessee. He is a former Extramural Associate with the National Institutes of Health and has completed epidemiological work at Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control. He was a Fulbright Professor at the Medical School of Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez in Juarez, Mexico, in 1991-92. He also is a Certified Health Education Specialist.
Villas has been executive director of the Border Health Coordination Office since 1994. The office is responsible for coordinating services among the various health-related projects established in the Texas-Mexico border area by UT System component institutions. It is charged with fostering collaborative health education, health services and health research leading to improved health for the citizens of Texas living along the border. One of the major projects of the office is the Texas-Mexico Border Diabetes Registry Project.