STHS highlights residency grads amid nation’s staff shortages

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Two of six graduates from South Texas Health System’s residency program represent some semblance of hope for addressing a lack of medical professionals in the Rio Grande Valley as healthcare providers continue to grapple with a doctor and nursing shortage that’s impacting the entire nation.

STHS shared this sentiment upon announcing the graduation of six students from its McAllen Family Medicine Residency Program on Friday. Of those six, two have decided to stay in the Valley to embark on their medical careers.

It’s no secret that the healthcare profession is currently facing a staffing shortage, and the Valley is among one of the regions facing the greatest need for both physicians and access to healthcare. 

“Health experts believe that lack of access to healthcare, coupled with a lack of medical insurance coverage for the low-income residents in the region, is having a negative effect on our overall health as a community by contributing to a growing prevalence of obesity, diabetes and other chronic health conditions,” STHS said in a news release Friday.

South Texas Health System McAllen seen in McAllen on Wednesday, May 10, 2023. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

According to the release, the state of Texas is facing a primary care physician shortage with a ratio of about 204.6 physicians per 100,000 people, placing the state below the national average of about 247.5 physicians. 

Although a national shortage, the Texas Department of State Health Services predicts the Valley to be the number one region in need of physicians by 2030. 

Citing the state agency, STHS characterized this by stressing that the Valley is projected to, by 2030, “have the highest absolute need, with the shortage of full-time equivalent primary care physicians expected to grow from 722 by that time frame.” Exacerbating the problem is a growing need for bilingual physicians, the health system further stated.

With its Family Medicine Residency Program, STHS hopes to address the growing need in the area.

In fact, the program director, Dr. Sunand M. Kallumadanda explained the goal of the program is to train family medicine doctors by providing residents with hands-on experience working in a hospital environment in the Valley.

According to Kallumadanda, this particular group of residents endured some of the toughest training as they took on the residency program during the COVID-19 pandemic, which was particularly deadly in the Valley with more than 4,000 deaths and climbing since 2020.

“This is a group of individuals who are really special because they had to take on the brunt of COVID-19, treating hundreds of patients,” Kallumadanda said in the release. “They were on the front lines and risked their own lives to tend to the ill, so they deserve a lot of kudos for taking on that challenge. I’m very proud of them.”

In December 2020, AIM Media Texas agreed and named the Valley’s medical community of doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals that year’s Citizens of the Year for The Monitor, The Brownsville Herald and the Valley Morning Star.

Among the six graduates Friday was Miguel Tamayo, a native of Matamoros, Tamaulipas, who began his residency program three years ago. Since then the Valley has become his home where he plans to continue practicing emergency medicine at STHS Edinburg.

“I belong to this culture, so I know how to treat the patients and I know how to approach them, so they feel more comfortable and are more likely to follow the prescribed health regimen,” Tamayo said in the release. “Knowing the culture, knowing the people, being a part of it — those were important factors in my success in this program.”

Now after graduating from the residency program, Tamayo hopes to help fill the need for family medicine doctors in the Valley and help alleviate the number of hospitalizations in the area.

Tamayo isn’t the only resident who will be staying in the Valley. His colleague, Chief Resident Andreina Prado Garcia of Maracaibo, Venezuela, will be continuing her medical career at the McAllen Veterans Affairs Clinic.

“The Valley is a beautiful mix of different cultures which makes it easier to feel at home, so I can now call the Valley my home and I’ll be staying here to continue to serve this community which I now feel part of,” Prado said.