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Education for health care professionals continues in the Mid-Rio Grande/Border area (10/12/98)

Funding appropriated by the Texas Legislature last year assures continued education and clinical training this year for students and health care professionals in the Mid-Rio Grande/Border area, according to officials with The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

"We wish to thank Senator Judith Zaffirini, Representative Henry Cuellar, their Legislative colleagues and the community leaders of Laredo, whose leadership will help these South Texas/Border Region Health Education Initiative programs continue," said John P. Howe, III, MD, president of the Health Science Center.

In 1995, the Health Science Center, with local educators and health professionals, began new regional health educational programs and expanded existing programs started by the South Texas Area Health Education Center (AHEC) as part of the South Texas/Border Region Health Education Initiative, a legislative project to enhance training for students interested in careers in the health professions. The project also has similar programs in the Corpus Christi/Coastal Bend and Lower Rio Grande Valley areas. A total of more than $15.5 million was appropriated to support the programs over a two-year period in all three regions.

Action by the state Legislature provides continuing funds for existing programs that train students in dentistry, nursing, public health and medicine, including pediatrics. A major portion of the funding will assure continuation of the Advanced Prosthodontics Training Program at the Gateway Community Health Center in Laredo.

The third-year medical student clerkship program with the Foundation for Health Education in Laredo will continue, as will planning for the family practice residency program at Mercy Regional Medical Center, Laredo.

Additional funds will assure the continuation of the health library network which provides regional library resources for students, residents, faculty, practitioners and other health professionals. Another item assures continued support for the South Texas Center for Distance Learning and Telehealth Network.

The Eagle Pass area will benefit through increased funding for occupational therapy clinical training sponsored by the School of Allied Health Sciences at the Health Science Center. This program has grown every year since its inception. Pediatrics subspecialty training for medical students and residents at United Medical Center in Eagle Pass also is continuing.

An allocation was made to continue supporting the Health Science Centerís dental students who are rotating through regional community health clinics, including Gateway Community Health Center, the United Medical Center in Eagle Pass and South Texas Rural Health Services in Pearsall.

The South Texas Environmental Education and Research Center-Laredo (STEER) will continue its public health course for medical, nursing and public health students. These one- month courses are offered year-round and involve students from all over the United States. Faculty members from the Health Science Center and health professionals from Laredo do onsite and classroom instruction in environmental health issues and common illnesses along the border.

An ophthalmology training program for health care providers and community practitioners in the region will continue to be offered at the Community Health Centers, with the assistance of the South Texas Lions Club mobile eye screening unit.

Additional funding is included for:

  • continuing education support, sponsored by the Mid-Rio Grande/Border Area Health Education Center (AHEC), which coordinates a series of programs including the Tri-County 1998 Annual Update in Medicine to all levels of health professionals in the region;

  • financial assistance to strengthen the Laredo Community Collegeís associate degree in nursing program, and a BSN course offered at Texas A&M-Laredo to strengthen nursing research;

  • health career opportunities programs to attract local public school and college students to the health professions, continued support to plan and coordinate AHEC activities and management, and student housing for those health professional students participating in remote clinical training;

  • support of a program to evaluate the regionís programs by the Health Science Centerís Center for Health Economics and Policy;

  • planning for AHECís health promotion and disease prevention program and for continuing education logistical support; and

  • planning for a geriatric certificate program at Laredo Community College.

The programs were developed with assistance from many regional health professionals and educators. The board of the Mid-Rio Grande/Border AHEC served in an advisory capacity to the Health Science Center in determining local needs and priorities. The university and community advisory groups will continue to interact with planned programs.

Note: For more local information, please contact Dr. Gladys Keene, director of the Mid-Rio Grande/Border Area Health Education Center, (956) 712-0037.