Cross-Border Connections: Chancellor Visits Tijuana to Learn about Industry, Healthcare and Education

Photos by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

From touring the production floor of one of Mexico’s best places to work to witnessing a student-run free health clinic in action, UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla’s visit to Tijuana, Mexico Friday offered him an introduction to the bustling metropolis just across the border from San Diego. The one-day tour included visits to Hospital Angeles Tijuana, the Health Frontiers in Tijuana Clinic, the Business Innovation and Technology Center, El Florido Parque Industrial and the Culinary Art School.

“I’m pleased to have the opportunity to meet with our community partners in Tijuana and learn more about this region and cross-border issues,” said Khosla. “My goal is to strengthen the existing partnerships between UC San Diego and our neighboring country, and pursue other opportunities for collaboration. Our teamwork is vital for the economic and social growth and prosperity of our regions, and we look forward to the ongoing exchange of ideas.”

Accompanying Khosla in Tijuana were Mary Walshok, associate vice chancellor for Public Programs at UC San Diego; Juan Lasheras, interim dean of the Jacob’s School of Engineering; Alberto Díaz-Cayeros, director of the university’s Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies; and James Clark, director general of the Mexico Business Center at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, who helped arrange the trip.

Health Frontiers in Tijuana Clinic

The day began with a visit to Hospital Angeles Tijuana, Mexico’s largest private hospital network and a top-tier facility for medical care. In a series of brief presentations, Khosla was introduced to the hospital’s breadth of services, novel technology and leading-edge research. Representatives from UC San Diego and Hospital Tijuana discussed where there may be opportunities for future collaboration, from research and clinical trials to training students.

Next on the tour was a visit to a different side of healthcare in Tijuana: a student-run free clinic in one of the city’s poorest districts. About a dozen patients, many homeless, gathered in the alley in front of the Health Frontiers in Tijuana (HFiT) Clinic, waiting to be seen.

The HFiT Clinic is a collaborative project of UC San Diego and the Universidad Autónomo de Baja California. Students from both sides of the border are mentored by faculty at the clinic to provide free care for underserved populations in Tijuana. Faculty and students also collaborate on a number of research projects focusing on HIV and STD prevention, substance abuse, policing practices and sex trafficking.

“There is an intense need for health services here,” said Steffanie Strathdee, associate dean of Global Health Sciences at UC San Diego, as she gave an overview of the project. “We align research, training and service. And we, the professors, learn as much from the students as they learn from us.”

Business Innovation and Technology Center

Before leaving the site, Khosla thanked the graduating medical students for their work. “What you’re doing here is truly amazing,” he said. “I had heard about some of this work, but it is not the same as being here today and seeing the impact.”

Arriving next at the Business Innovation and Technology (BIT) Center, Khosla and the UC San Diego representatives were welcomed into what is known as the software center of Tijuana. Housed in a modern, spacious facility, the BIT Center is a nonprofit that offers space for businesses and emerging entrepreneurs. More than 30 companies currently occupy the space.

“The goal is to bring together creative people,” said center director Claudio Arriola. “This is like a big kitchen. We make sure the right tools and equipment is here in order for the chefs to prepare their dishes.”

Touring the facility, the group passed meeting spaces and offices of various sizes, as well as rooms used for seminars and educational workshops. Additional open spaces with free Internet access were set up for individuals to use—from students doing homework to emerging entrepreneurs researching new ideas.

The technology-focused visit was followed by a stop at a hub for industry and manufacturing in Tijuana: El Florido Parque Industrial. More than 40 companies from around the world are currently located within this industrial area. Khosla visited DJO Global, an international developer, manufacturer and distributor of medical devices that has repeatedly been ranked the top place to work in Mexico, and which serves as an example of how business can enhance quality of life for local residents.

El Florido Parque Industrial

While touring the facility, Khosla was briefed on the variety of global companies located in Tijuana. “Tijuana is one of the four most important cities in Mexico,” said Eduardo Salcedo, vice president of operations. He described an adaptable, skilled workforce that has emerged to meet the labor needs of the more than 1,000 international companies established in Tijuana.

The final stop for the day took Chancellor Khosla to the Culinary Art School, an internationally recognized institution devoted to training future professionals in the fields of culinary arts and hospitality. Here, Khosla met with leaders and community members from both sides of the border to learn more about business and partnerships between San Diego and Tijuana while sampling regional cuisine. Joining the chancellor at the luncheon were several U.S. business leaders including Malin Burnham, vice chairman of Cushman & Wakefield; Denise Ducheny, former California State Senator; and Jerry Sanders, CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“There is a long history of UC San Diego in Tijuana,” noted José Larroque, partner at Baker & McKenzie and co-chair of the Smart Border Coalition. “I commend the chancellor for coming here today. It really means a lot.”

UC San Diego leaders look forward to future visits to the region. “The Jacobs School of Engineering, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the School of Medicine, the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies and other areas of campus are all building connections with institutions across the border,” said Associate Vice Chancellor for Public Programs Mary Walshok. “These merit future visits to further discuss the depth and breadth of existing relationships and promising opportunities for UC San Diego’s research and education programs.”

On May 9, Chancellor Khosla will visit the San Ysidro Health Clinic to learn about the organization and its history with UC San Diego, and to discuss ways to enhance their partnership.

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