Hispanic Health Research Center

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Hispanic Health Research Center

texas mapThe Hispanic Health Research Center (HHRC) was established at the Brownsville Regional Campus of the University of Texas School of Public Health in 2003 through funding from the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities at the National Institutes of Health. McCormick-Joe-crop-web The HHRC is directed by Dr. Joseph McCormick. The primary objective of the Center is to identify the salient risk factors for obesity and diabetes in Americans of Mexican descent living in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. To achieve this goal, we utilize our Clinical Research Unit CRU), the on-site laboratory facilities including a BSL-3, and engage in community outreach to promote physical activity and healthful food choices in the Hispanic population.

The Cameron County Hispanic Cohort (CCHC) was established in 2004 by the Hispanic Health Research Center. The CCHC is a cohort of randomly ascertained Mexican Americans resident in Cameron, HidDr. Fisher-Hochalgo and Webb counties. It was established in 2004 and currently numbers over 4,600 extensively phenotyped participant recruited from households in (figure). The CCHC is directed by Dr. Susan Fisher-Hoch. The CCHC has been the source of multiple publications describing the health of this community of low income homogenous ethnic population missing from most large national cohorts.

About the HHRC

The Hispanic Health Research Center at the UTSPH at Brownsville is one of the six campuses of the University of Texas School of Public Health.  The campus is located on its own site, adjacent to the UTRGV Brownsville Campus. The faculty have a wide range of expertise in epidemiology, disease control, behavioral health and outreach, data management and biostatistics and genetic epidemiology.  They have extensive experience in research and teaching. Research is a major part of the expectations of all faculty as part of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. All faculty are well published with a range of  research programs. Collaborative studies with established scientists at the Houston campus, the McGovern Medical School and MDAnderson also include collaborators from other institutions such as UTRGV, UTHSCSA, University of California, San Diego, Baylor College of Medicine, Vanderbilt, University of Washington, and many more. Further, research links with the medical community along the border include most of the clinics and hospitals in the area. The major research initiative of the HHRC is the  Cameron County Hispanic Cohort (CCHC).  This is a cohort of low income Mexican Americans randomly recruited from households in Cameron, Hidalgo and Webb counties on the Mexican border.  It now numbers more than 4,600 individuals followed up every five years.  Data from the CCHC have been published widely and are being used to inform intervention and outreach programs.

Clinical Research Unit and associated facilities for clinical research.

Sue Fisher-Hoch, MD  oversees a NIH-supported Clinical Research Unit established in 2004. It is located in a suite of offices provided to us by the Rocio (2)Valley Baptist Medical Center in Brownsville. It has a project manager, Rocio Uribe  and project coordinator, Norma Perez-Olazaran  several highly trained field workers. Since 2004, the Brownsville CRU has been an integral part of the UTHealth General Clinical Restoragesearch Center in Houston. The CRU has recently been expanded to 3,423 square feet, with seven examination rooms, office space and a conference room equipped with video equipment for communicating with collaborators and telemedicine.  Photgraphs  A small laboratory area allows immediate processing and freezing of specimens.  WiFi and 5 computers connected to the university network are also behind the firewall and provide video conferencing across the state. The Brownsville CRU is home of the Cameron County Hispanic Cohort uses a unique team approach tailored to the local community. CRU investigators are Spanish-speaking, highly trained and experienced community health workers who conduct subject recruitment in local homes, processing and specimen collection. University vans are used for recNormaruiting and transporting participants. The clinic is furnished with phlebotomy chair, examination couches, wheelchairs, and other clinic equipment. It also has anthropometric equipment for weight and height, a Quantum X bioelectric body composition analyzer, random zero blood pressure machine (MK2 Random Zero - Hawksley, England), an electrocardiogram machine (Nihon Kohden ECG-9320A Cardiofax V), a YSI Select 2300 Biochemistry Analyzer (GlucoStat) and ice chest. The CRU has a Siemens Acuson X300 ultrasound system and a VF 13-5 linear array transducer or 5-MHz transducer (Ch5-2, Siemens, Mountain View, CA) and a Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometer (Hologic). It also has a recently acquired FibroScan 502 (Echosens, France) incorporating Controlled Attenuation Parameter (CAP) which allows quantification of steatosis as well as measurement of liver stiffness indicating fibrosis using Vibration Controlled Transient Elastography technology (VCTE).

The Brownsville CRU has two outposts, one in Laredo, Webb County, established in 2012, and the other a new center in Pharr, in Hidalgo county established in 2018. These sites provide a wider community sample.  The Laredo CRU consists of 2,053 square feet which includes 4 exam rooms and a laboratory area. It is supported by a project manager and 3 recruiters. The Pharr clinic in Hidalgo county.

Further research facilities are provided in the Doctor’s Hospital Renaissance in Edinburg, Hidalgo County, where we have dedicated research space within the new Transplant Unit.  Here we conduct research with a second cohort consisting of hepatocellular carcinoma patients and their close relatives in collaboration with Drs. Almeda and Patil of DHR.


LABThe University of Texas School of Public Health at Brownsville laboratory has a 6000 square foot wet-laboratory completed marcelain 2008. The laboratory director. Marcela Morris, oversees laboratory technicians performing a wide range of studies on our CCHC specimens. The laboratory was designed to provide high technology and use of high throughput assays for screening large numbers of specimens from our field sites and clinics. The main laboratory space is divided into a BSL3 laboratory and a larger BSL2 laboratory with restricted access reserved for major equipment and for genetic and cell culture studies. A large open laboratory is available for general purposes.  The laboratory possesses a Luminex 200X xMAP Technologies plate reader and 405 TS Magnetic Microplate Washer.  It has the MicroLab Nimbus Elisa and the MicroLab Starlet Liquid Handling System from Hamilton.  It has a Muse Cell Counter by EMD Millipore, and a QuantStudioDX Real Time PCR by Life Technologies. It has a SpectraMax MS Real Time Spectrophotometer by Molecuar Devices, a BD PACS CANTO 11 Flow Cytometer by BD Biosciences, and an Olympus IX51 fluorescent microscope and a  CX31 Microscope. It has a NanoSprint nCounter, a BACTEC MGIT 960, 1575 Immunowash plate washer, PTC 200 Peltier Thermocycler, and a 2100 Agilent Bioanalyzer.  Centrifuges includes a Cytospin 4 cell preparation centrifuge, one ultra-speed and 3 microcentrifuges.

Blanca Ortiz Community Outreach Annex

The Blanca Ortiz Community Outreach Annex is located at the University of Texas School of Public Health (UTSPH) Brownsville campus and houses many exciting activities. This annex provides vital work and meeting space dedicated to community outreach to improve public health through research and community projects at UTSPH Brownsville.

One part of the annex houses promotoras or lay health workers who are professionals from the community who have been specifically chosen because of their talents in educating, motivating and teaching skills to community members for improving their health. They have been trained in topics such as physical activity, healthful food choices, diabetes and cancer prevention and control through the Tu Salud Si Cuenta! (Your Health Matters!) community wide campaign. The annex also provides a conference room for community meetings, a clinic space used by the Clinical Research Unit for clinical research activities including participant enrollment in the Cameron County Hispanic Cohort. Finally the annex provides an office for local health oriented non-profit organizations including Healthy Communities of Brownsville and The Brownsville Farmers’ Market. These organizations are working to improve the health of the community through environmental change efforts including recycling initiatives and access to locally grown fruits and vegetables. The entire annex is dedicated to community activities and as such is a warm place enriched by the volunteers and staff who work to provide healthy resources for the local community.

Scale Tests

The CAB-E (Cognitive Assessment Battery English Version) is a collection of scales to test a range of cognitive functions including: 

Depression, Anxiety, Orientation, Memory, Attention, and Literacy.  All of the materials in the CAB-E are designed to be administrated in English only (for testing in Spanish use the CAB-S).  It is assumed that interviews are proper trained and fluent in English.

Cohort Brownsville

  • Anthropometrics Form
  • Bioimpedance-EKG Form
  • Blood Pressure Form
  • Cognetive Assessment Battery Cover Form (English and Spanish)
  • Cognetive Assessment Battery Versions (English and Spanish)
  • Contact and Scheduling Form
  • Diabetes History Form
  • Examination Cover Form
  • Exercise and Nutrition Form
  • Family History Form
  • ID and Demographic Form
  • Laboratory Form
  • Medical History and Medication Form
  • Obstetrical Parameters Form
  • Smoking and Drinking History Form


 List of Publications (2003 to present)


HHRC in the NEWS

Brownsville Herald - UTB - TSC Professors study exercise for college-aged Hispanic males.

Genetics, Obesity, Diabetes and Health Disparities

Susan Fisher-Hoch: Clinical, metabolic, immunological, proteomic and genetic studies, including gene expression, focused on understanding and preventing the complications of diabetes obesity and their complications. Translation of these studies to Global Health sites.

Joseph McCormick: Impact of obesity and diabetes on the mental, social and physical health, on the immune system and response to infectious diseases, as well as, intervention studies that could improve the health of the community. Long-term research includes viral hemorrhagic fevers and HIV.

Key Findings in Diabetes’ Link to Tuberculosis

Epidemiologists at the BRC have been conducting binational studies on TB patients identified in pulmonary clinics from South Texas (Hidalgo and Cameron County Health Departments) and northeastern Mexico (Secretaria de Salud de Tamaulipas in Matamoros). They have discovered that people with Type 2 diabetes may be at increased risk of contracting tuberculosis because of a compromised immune system, resulting in life-threatening lung infections that are more difficult to treat. The team has now led three studies that revealed key findings:

  • Type 2 diabetes, especially Type 2 diabetes involving chronic high blood sugar, is associated with altered immune response to TB, and this was particularly marked in patients with chronically high blood sugar
  • Patients with diabetes and TB take longer to respond to anti-TB treatment
  • Patients with active tuberculosis and Type 2 diabetes are more likely to have multi-drug resistant TB

Welcome Researchers

The Hispanic Health Research Center of UTSPH-B has an interest in sharing specimens and data with other interested and qualified research groups of individual researchers who may wish to contribute analyses for the benefit of the scientific and health care communities.  We encourage and solicit manuscript proposals and ancillary studies.

Manuscript Proposals:

The manuscripts is to be completed making use of the Cohort/Core data resources and submitting to the Cohort/Core Publications committee PRIOR to obtaining data and writing the manuscript.

Ancillary Proposals:

The ancillary studies is to be completed making use of the Cohort/Core data resources and specimen collections.  PRIOR to obtaining data or specimens, please submit to the Ancillary Studies Committee.

If you have any questions about the process or website, please feel free to send an email to CCHCResearch@uth.tmc.edu