Group reviews current programs in Laredo, discusses plans for future
LAREDO (April 24, 2019) ― Collaborative programs for education, clinical care and research was the discussion topic April 4 among leadership of UT Health San Antonio and UT System leadership, and the Laredo Regional Campus Advisory Council (RCAD).
The meeting took place at the UT Health San Antonio Regional Campus Laredo, where Gladys Keene, M.D., is regional dean.
Visitors included Amy Shaw Thomas, J.D., executive vice chancellor for health affairs ad interim and an executive officer of UT System.
UT Health San Antonio leaders included President William Henrich, M.D., FACP; Paul Allen, D.Sc., assistant professor and chairman of the Physician Assistant Studies Program in the School of Health Professions; Michael E. Black, M.B.A., senior executive vice president and chief operating officer; Eileen T. Breslin, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, dean of the School of Nursing; Mary DeLay, M.B.A., vice president and chief of staff; Armando Diaz, M.Ed., vice president for governmental affairs; and Peter Loomer, D.D.S., Ph.D., MRCD(C), FACD, dean of the School of Dentistry.
Gerald Schwebel, executive vice president of IBC Bank, is chairman of the RCAC. In welcoming the visitors to Laredo, he said: “We are passionate about the need to promote better health care in our community. We welcome these opportunities to dialogue with you and your leadership team about the future of the regional campus and the academic needs of our community.”
President Henrich said, “We are always pleased to meet with our dedicated friends in Laredo to see how we can work together to improve health care and educational opportunities in South Texas.”
Ideas for the future
Several ideas were discussed among the RCAC members and visitors, including new collaborations. “Laredo is fertile ground for training in all areas. We can work together as partners with UT Health San Antonio in emerging needs like behavioral health, degenerative diseases, substance abuse and opioid problems in the community,” said Hector Gonzalez, M.D., M.P.H., director of the City of Laredo Health Department.
Elmo Lopez, CEO of Gateway Community Health Center, added, “We have been working with the UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry for over 20 years and the services provided have been very beneficial for our patients. We want to support the [proposed] physician assistant program and want to be a teaching site for any additional training programs that will benefit our community.”
Jorge Leal, COO of Laredo Medical Center Hospital said, “There is a huge need for PAs as physician extenders, as well as other health professionals, such as occupational therapists, physical therapists and respiratory therapists. We want to be involved with you in growing our health care work force.”
James Resendez, CEO of Doctors Hospital, discussed the need for specialty nurse training with School of Nursing Dean Breslin. “We seek specialty training for our nurses assigned to our cardiac program and NICU and wonder if you could help us,” he said.
Manuel Gonzalez, D.D.S., with General & Cosmetic Dentistry, mentioned to School of Dentistry Dean Loomer that there is a great need for continuing education programs for local dentists and requested consideration of restarting the continuing education programs that were discontinued several years ago.
Discussions of these ideas will continue over time, President Henrich said.
Meanwhile, three of UT Health San Antonio’s five schools have active programs in Laredo.
School of Health Professions
The School of Health Professions recently instituted the Laredo Early Admission Program (LEAP) with Texas A&M International University. The program allows for early admission of qualified TAMIU students into its highly competitive programs in San Antonio. They include the Doctor of Occupational Therapy, Doctor of Physical Therapy, Master of Physician Assistant Studies, Master of Science in Medical Laboratory Sciences and Master of Respiratory Care programs.
“Currently, we have three students enrolled in our programs through LEAP and more students are being considered for admission,” Dr. Allen said.
In other School of Health Professions initiatives, 27 students are doing clinical rotations in Laredo, and the school has hired a consultant to evaluate the possibility of developing a physician assistant studies satellite program at the Laredo Regional Campus in the future.
School of Dentistry
The School of Dentistry has provided clinical training for its dental students and dental residents in Laredo for many years, in collaboration with clinical partners.
Dr. Loomer explained: “These programs help increase access to much-needed health care and health professional education, decrease health disparities among underserved groups, expand community and university partnerships, help attract future faculty to the Laredo campus and expand the health profession workforce in Laredo.”
Currently, senior dental students have a weeklong rotation in pediatric dentistry and the school has a full-time extension of its pediatric dental residency program at the Laredo Health Department. The residents’ join San Antonio-based colleagues for classroom instruction via distance learning at the Regional Campus in Laredo.
Periodic periodontics and prosthodontics resident training, as well as two-week dental student rotations in general dentistry are offered in collaboration with Gateway Community Health Center.
Working with Mercy Ministries of Laredo, the school offers a two-week summer selective rotation for senior dental students in general primary care dentistry.
UT Health San Antonio has invested financially with the help of grants to provide space and equipment to expand these programs as they have grown over the years, Dr. Loomer said.
The School of Dentistry’s Dental Public Health Residency Program has provided sealants and preventive education to more than 1,700 children from Laredo Independent School District and Laredo United ISD elementary school students funded by a Health Resources and Services Administration grant.
The School of Dentistry also has developed a pipeline program with Laredo high schools and TAMIU to increase diversity in the dental and allied dental health professions, among other programs in Laredo.
School of Nursing
Seven graduate students from Laredo are enrolled in the School of Nursing’s psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program, in collaboration with TAMIU. “We have a very successful partnership for this program,” Dean Breslin said.
Laredo Community Advisory Council
Additional members of the RCAC include Dr. Pablo Arenaz, president of TAMIU; Mario Gonzalez Jr., of Mario Gonzalez, CPA; former County Judge Mercurio Martinez Jr., community leader; Dr. Ricardo Solis, president of Laredo Community College; Dr. Rosa Maria Vida, community leader; and Dr. Susan Walker, community leader.
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