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UTRGV working to secure specialized care in the Valley

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If you need to see a specialist, it may take a few months to get an appointment in the Valley, depending on the type of care you need. If there isn’t a specialist in our region, then you will need to travel out of the Valley.

But the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is combating the issue through their medical programs.

"I think it's really just a shortage issue, and over time, we hope that that's going to change dramatically,” said Dr. Nausheen Jamal, Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education.

Dr. Jamal says she's the only person in the Valley with a sub-specialty in laryngology, working with patients who have voice, swallowing and airways disorders. Due to a lack of specialty doctors in the region, getting an appointment with one can take several months—or even require travel.

"In some specialties, there's no one at all doing the specialty here in the Rio Grande Valley and people have to go to Houston, San Antonio and sometimes even further,” said Dr. Michael Dobbs, Chief Medical Officer for UT Health RGV.

Dobbs says there's a shortage of doctors in the region, especially medical professionals who are trained in a specialty.

“My own specialty of neurology is terribly deficient,” Dr. Dobbs said. “There are some excellent neurologists who have migrated here over the last few decades. Some of them are getting to the stage, now, where they are ready to retire."

But when UTRGV's School of Medicine was founded in 2013, it marked the beginning of a mission to bring more doctors to the area.

"Our hope is that by establishing the medical school here, by having all of the residency and fellowship programs here, that we can grow our own population of both primary care and specialty physicians for the Valley," Dr. Jamal said.

UT Health RGV is doing just that, recruiting advanced clinical sub-specialists to the region to practice and teach the next generation of doctors, while also graduating students through their medical school and then offering a wide range of residency programs and specialties for them to train in the Valley.

In the next year, UTRGV hopes to start training neurologists - adding another much needed specialty.

According to Dr. Dobbs, around 55 students graduate from their medical school each year, on top of more than 200 others who complete their residency or fellowship through the school.

"Through data from the American Association of Medical Colleges, we know that people are really likely to stay in the area where they completed their residency after they train, more so than where they complete medical school,” Dr. Dobbs said.

"We are training excellent physicians and many of them are excited to live in the Valley and to be a part of the community here,” Dr. Jamal said.

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