Future of Medicine

HARLINGEN — For more than two decades, the Valley Baptist Family Practice Residency Program has been training medical residents to be the future of medicine in the Rio Grande Valley.

As part of formal medical education, residents are physicians who have graduated from medical school and are continuing their training under supervision before practicing medicine on their own.

The Valley Baptist Family Practice Residency Program, which consists of a total of 15 first-, second-, and third-year residents, has a mission that includes providing “quality training for our residents and compassionate outreach in our community as we strive to follow Christ’s example of healing lives and relationships.”

It’s a mission that has not changed since the program’s inception in 1995, said Program Director Dr. Bruce Leibert.

“A resident is a physician who has graduated from medical school and is now on the job training, like an apprentice – practicing, growing, and learning their medical skills,” he said. “For our community, that means they are getting all these bright, wonderful young people from all around the world who come to share their love and skills within in our community. A good percentage of these residents remain here once their training is complete to continue to care for their community.”

Leibert said the program has produced 96 graduates since its inception, and more than 35 of those have stayed in the Valley to practice medicine. According to a 2016 report produced by the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Valley falls well short of the national average of 226 physicians per 100,000 residents.

“We are working to improve the future of access to care in our community,” he said. “Residents frequently stay in the communities in which they are trained.”

Third-year resident Dr. Jesus Rodriguez said he was drawn to the Valley Baptist Family Residency Program because of the program’s stability and commitment to providing a quality education. The program, which has been accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education since 1995, recently earned recertification from the ACGME in early 2017.

“I was looking for a place that was established and had a good reputation,” he said. “At the end of the day here, you get a lot of one-on-one attention and a lot of mentorship, which has really helped me grow exponentially as a physician.”

Like a number of program graduates before him, Rodriguez, a Santa Maria native, plans to continue practicing medicine in the Valley following his graduation.

“I wanted to give back to the community that had helped me become what I eventually wanted to be – a physician. This community needs a lot of love and a lot of care,” he said. “There are a lot of patients here and a shortage of primary practitioners in the area. How could I not want to give back to a place that helped me get to where I want to be?”