EDINBURG — Eight television cameras lined up in the middle of the Edinburg Conference Center on Friday as their operators hoped to catch glimpses of area political, medical and academic heavyweights.
Doctors Hospital at Renaissance hosted a bevy of local elected officials and media representatives as it announced the launch of four medical school residency programs. The residencies — composed of 78 students in general surgery, internal medicine, family medicine and obstetrics and gynecology — will begin under a partnership with the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, but will eventually transition to UT Rio Grande Valley.
“The launching of residencies is critical for the new medical school,” said Dr. Francisco González-Scarano, the dean of the medical school in San Antonio. “It’s also critical for the development of health care in the (Rio Grande) Valley.”
Residency programs are critical to the school and the area’s health for two reasons, he added.
More than 60 percent of Texas medical residents remain to work in the communities where they complete their residencies, according to news release from UTHSCSA and Doctors Hospital. With its high pace of growth, the Valley has a documented shortage of doctors, with only 157 per 100,000 of general population.
“First of all, this how you keep doctors in the area,” he said. “It isn’t so much a medical school, because if a physician finishes medical school in the Valley and then they don’t find a residency and go off somewhere, the likelihood is that, quite often, they’ll stay in the area where they train.”
The other reason is that residencies are critical for the school to gain accreditation.
The doctors heading the four residency programs began working for the Doctors Hospital between September 2013 and this month.
Eron Manusov, most recently a program director at Duke University, heads the family practice program; Charlie Richart, formerly of the University of Kansas Medical Center, directs the general surgery program; Amer Malas, who last worked at St. Francis Hospital and Charleston Medical Associates in Charleston, W.Va., is in charge of the internal medicine program; and John Michael Breen, formerly the chairman of the obstetrics and gynecology program at Exempla Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver, will manage the same program at Doctors Hospital.
The foursome will be responsible for building their programs and shaping medical school in its infancy.
“Here you have the opportunity to participate, not only in a brand-new surgery residency, but in a brand-new medical school, brand-new university,” Richart said. “It’s like: ‘Wow. Who wouldn’t want to do it?’”
In addition to providing the doctors, hospital space and patients, Doctors Hospital will also provide $60 million over the next 5 1/2 years to jump-start the programs, said hospital CEO Israel Rocha. Within 10 years, Rocha expects the program to grow from 78 to 375 residents.
“We’re not just, I guess, sticking our toe into graduate medical education; we’re going in fully swimming,” he said.
McAllen Medical Center hosts a family medicine residency program, and Valley Baptist Medical Center hosts psychiatry, family medicine and internal medicine residency programs in partnership with UTHSCSA. Plans for pediatric and preventative medicine residencies are under way, Rocha said.