EDINBURG, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Longtime attorney and health administrator Manny Vela has been named the vice president and chief operating officer of the Texas A&M Higher Education Center at McAllen.

Vela recently retired as the president and CEO of Valley Baptist Health System.

He said the Valley, like the rest of the state and nation, has a significant shortage of nurses.

“The reality is we are short staffed right now. We’re about 3,000-plus short of nurses in the Rio Grande Valley alone and 30,000 across the state.”

Currently the higher education center offers nine education programs in the Valley. The university recently announced the expansion of its schools of nursing, biomedical sciences and veterinary medicine.

“There are already existing nursing programs in the Valley. Thank those institutions and those programs for attempting to meet the demand, but the reality is we’re so short staffed right now. So what we’re going to do is create new programs that will increase the available pool,” Vela said. “Because even with the existing pool that we have we’re not meeting the demand.”

He said in his new role he plans to collaborate with other institutions that serve the Valley.

“I think together we’re a big strong force in regards to creating educational opportunities down here and I very much look forward to sitting at the table with those individuals so we can move the Valley forward.”

Vela said most of the new programs implemented at the school will be paid for by the Texas Legislature.

Additionally, Vela said the education center will soon break ground on the nursing school.