Given the vast, 15-campus expanse of the University of Texas System, Dr. Francisco Cigarroa has made his way into numerous Texas biotech and life sciences news stories over the past five years during his tenure as Chancellor. His current role in the UT System is about to come to an end, however, as Cigarroa has officially announced his resignation from the top administrative post in order to return to medical practice.
The announcement came on Sunday night in an e-mail sent to UT System staff, which explained that Cigarroa’s move would shift him from Chancellor to head of pediatric surgery at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. Cigarroa will also hold an official press conference today along with Board of Regents Chairman Paul Foster.
The e-mail, which was obtained by the Associated Press, reveals the motivation behind Cigarroa’s decision was based entirely on the desire to practice full-time medicine again: “I knew the day would come when I would return to transplant surgery. The time has come for me to return to my lifelong love and passion — saving lives one individual at a time.” It is worth noting that even as Chancellor of the UT Health System, Dr. Cigarroa had maintained his job as a surgeon.
As an administrator, Cigarroa oversaw the regents’ recent approval of a new university medical school in South Texas, as well as the launch of a new medical school on the Austin campus — both key accomplishments given the rising need for healthcare and research practitioners in Texas over the next few decades.
Like any politically-oriented administrative position, Cigarroa, the first Hispanic Chancellor of the UT System, also had to deal with his share of political tension during his tenure as Chancellor. Perhaps the most high-profile conflict was between he and University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers, whom he called out at the regents’ December meeting, exhorting Powers to improve trust and communication in his dealings with System staff. Though Cigarroa did not publicly lobby for Powers to lose his job, regent Wallace Hall Jr. did become embroiled in attempts to force the otherwise popular Powers out of his position — a move that may result in his impeachment by State lawmakers.
According to an unnamed AP source who has direct knowledge of Cigarroa’s decision and was contacted before the email was sent, the decision is not based on political pressures, and Cigarroa was not forced out of his role. He will continue to function in the capacity of Chancellor until a replacement is found.