The generosity of the Robert J. Kleberg, Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation is shaping the future of health care education, research and clinical care in South Texas.
For nearly three decades, the Kleberg Foundation has supported The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio with generous gifts totaling approximately $8 million. Their gifts impact all missions, including research programs to develop treatments for debilitating diseases that affect South Texas and the world.
Through Kleberg Foundation support, the UT Health Science Center established the Internal Medicine Residency program in 2002 as part of the Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC) in Harlingen.
This year, the Kleberg Foundation has given an additional gift of more than $2.4 million to expand the original Kleberg Medical Scholars program to include medical students and new opportunities in medical education. The gift will support, over the next six years, the participation of approximately 42 medical students in the Medical/Master of Public Health (M.D./M.P.H.) degree program, and the participation of an additional 25 residents in the Public Health Certification program at the RAHC.
The M.D./M.P.H program is a partnership between the UT Health Science Center San Antonio and the UT School of Public Health. The dual degree program was established in 2007 to address the shortage of well-trained public health professionals in Texas. It is one of only a handful of programs of its type in the United States.
These new elements, focused on public health, will provide students and residents with structure and training in research and public health issues, and will encourage participation by future Kleberg Scholars in community research projects.
“The Kleberg Medical Scholars program is accelerating the pace of our mission to quickly respond to the urgent health care needs of South Texas, and is fueling the pipeline for the next generation of physicians who will competently serve our patients,” said Health Science Center President William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP.
The Kleberg Scholars program has supported 70 research projects led by 27 resident physicians. Kleberg Scholars conduct research in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, bringing attention to the important and unique needs of South Texas patients. Now, medical students entering the program will have the opportunity to follow in their footsteps.
Statistics show that physicians tend to practice where they train, so the Kleberg Foundation is helping increase the number of physicians and clinical research interests in South Texas, a region that has been federally designated as a medically underserved area. Twenty-six of the 27 Kleberg Scholars now practice in South Texas.
Support from the Kleberg Foundation not only provides scholars with the funds needed to implement research initiatives, it also establishes mentoring opportunities with experienced Health Science Center faculty investigators such as James F. Hanley III, M.D., clinical professor and director of the RAHC Internal Medicine Residency program in the Department
“Through his unselfish and dedicated leadership, Dr. Hanley founded and ushered the RAHC’s Internal Medicine Residency program from its formative stages and accreditation to the highly respected program it is today,” said Leonel Vela, M.D., M.P.H., professor and regional dean of the RAHC in Harlingen. “Its graduates maintain 100 percent board passage, and the majority of them remain in the Valley to contribute to improving health in one of the most medically underserved regions in the country. He continues to dedicate countless hours to this endeavor. Dr. Hanley’s academic leadership has imprinted an indelible mark that, for generations, will define the culture of teaching and high academic standards at the RAHC.”