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Dr. Ambrosio 'Amos' Hernandez

PHARR, RGV – One of the criticisms leveled against Pharr mayoral candidate Ambrosio “Amos” Hernandez by the Pharr First slate of candidates is that few people in the community really know who he is.

They say Hernandez, leader of the Pharr Forward slate of candidates, does not have much of a track record when it comes to working in the community. Whether that is true or not, the Rio Grande Guardian turned to someone who has known Hernandez as a friend and as a professional colleague for many years. Dr. Ramiro Caballero is fulsome in his praise. He said Hernandez, who is also a physician, will be a great mayor for Pharr.

“I have known Ambrose for probably 11 years. He was the first pediatric surgeon in South Texas. I know his commitment when he takes care not only of my patients but a lot of critical children. He is very strong-minded when he has something in front of him to do and accomplish. That is a very important quality for any man or position,” said Caballero, who is running on the Pharr Forward slate for city commissioner.

Caballero said it takes a “great deal of commitment” to come into an area and be the first professional in your field. “I sort of did the same thing so I know the commitment, emotionally, physically, family-wise and the work ethic that has to be there in order to accomplish that particular goal. I know Ambrose had a vision, had a goal of being the first physician (of his kind) to come into the Valley and he has become one of the most successful.”

Another fine attribute Hernandez possesses, Caballero said, is experience in dealing with people. “I have seen him networking with administrators and other physicians, collaborating with other surgeons, so I know he has the people skills required.”

Another great attribute, Caballero said, is that Hernandez is “very professional” in his approach to things. “Socially, he is a very good man but when it comes to business and having the eye of a professional man, when he sits in a committee, when he sits in a position of leadership you can tell who is in charge. That is also very important.”

Hernandez was born to migrant parents and he and his four siblings attended PSJA schools. At a young age he found himself caring for his siblings and his ailing grandmother. He also had to become provider when his older brother was severely handicapped in an automobile accident.

Caballero said such a hard upbringing has made Hernandez into the leader he is today.

“If you look at his maturity, his leadership, he is very forceful when he needs to be yet he is very caring when he needs to be. You can say what you want about Amos but very few men have those particular attributes. He is very centered in his religion and his family,” Caballero said.

Hernandez earned his medical degree from the University of Michigan in 1990 and his Master’s Degree in Medical Science from the UT Medical Branch in Galveston in 2001. He has been medical director for surgical services at Driscoll Hospital since 2004 and has practices in McAllen and Edinburg. He is chief compliance officer at Doctor’s Hospital at Renaissance.

Caballero said he has seen Hernandez’s leadership skills in the medical arena. “Ambrose has positions at a number of hospitals and knowledge of how things work. He has trained himself very well to be a businessman as well as a physician. He is a physician first, by far, because that is his calling but in order to be a successful physician you have to have the knowledge of business as well because healthcare has become a business. What he has done at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, the positions he holds there really speak very highly for him because he leads a lot of doctors and has say so in that particular arena.”

Caballero said when Hernandez started his practice in the Rio Grande Valley there was really no one to substitute for him, no one on call 24/7.

“Physically that takes a toll for any man or women. Other doctors come in and they make collaborations with other doctors to cover you. Who is going to cover Amos when you have a call in the middle of the night? There was nobody so Amos had to take that responsibility on himself. Those are the kind of guys… if you look into the history of Valley healthcare there were pioneers along the way. Eventually, when you look historically into the healthcare industry in the Valley you will find that the first man who was here was Amos Hernandez, the first pediatric surgeon in the area. He could have gotten a job anywhere in the United States. He could have gotten into any medical school. He could have gone to Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, with guaranteed backup, with guaranteed everything. But, the reason he came back to the Valley was because this is his home and this is where he wanted to contribute.”

A question some voters have had for both Hernandez and Caballero is whether they will give enough of their time to city commission duties, given that they have busy medical practices. Caballero explained how he would manage this task:

“As far as meetings for the City of Pharr I will have every Tuesday off so I can dedicate my time to the city. I discussed this with my wife and my group. I got the okay from both,” Caballero said.

“Having said that, also, I am not a regular physician where I have an 8 to 5 office practice. My office practice is intensive care or intermediate care. So, I can finish my rounds by 12 o’clock and then I am available for emergencies or complications. So, I have a lot of free time in the sense that I can read and I can study. As long as you can put it on my schedule, if I have to go out of town for a Pharr event, so be it. We will adjust it.”

As for Hernandez, Caballero said his colleague runs a very structured and organized life.

“When Amos tells you he will be available he will be available. He has a lot of resources he uses whether it is his family, his colleagues, other surgeons in the area. There is another pediatric surgeon in the area as well and there might be another one he might recruit. So, again, as the years progress he is going to be more and more available. But, when he says he is going to be somewhere, he is there,” Caballero said.

In his case, Caballero said two of his sons are graduating from college this May and then next year his other son goes off to college. “So, it will be me and my wife for the next three years. That was a very important factor because I am a very family-oriented man. Work and family is what my life has been. Now, when Amos asked me to run with him it was not an easy decision but I looked at different variables, could I commit, would I be willing to do the work required. All those answers came back yes and yes and yes. There was really no way I could tell him no after that.”

In his interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Hernandez said he was pleased to receive the endorsements of many Pharr leaders, such as outgoing Mayor Polo Palacios, former Mayor Fidencio Barrera, former city commissioner Irma Elizondo and former justice of the peace Rosa Treviño. These and other former leaders appeared on the Ron Whitlock Reports show to explain their support for Hernandez and Pharr Forward.

“This is something that came from them. I did not ask them to do it. The support has always been there, very diverse, different age groups, different backgrounds. They decided they did not want to be in the shadows, that they wanted to be vocal in support of the Pharr Forward slate.”

Asked if he would be too busy with his medical practice to run Pharr, Hernandez said: “That is the simplest question I have gotten. It is never, ever, about the quality of time you spend somewhere. It is about the quality of work you do. Here is a perfect example. I remember one time I operated on a child and the father came out to me afterwards said: ‘You only took five minutes. I am used to other surgeons taking an hour.’ My response was, did you get a good outcome and the answer was yes. So, it is not about the quantity of time you take but the quality that matters.”

Hernandez made another point about this question of being too busy. “Look at our most robust cities in Hidalgo County, McAllen and Edinburg. Economically, socially, public safety-wise, they are good, by far the best. Last I checked both mayors have full time jobs yet, they are still able to manage and outperform Pharr. Why, because they are quality people. That is how you do it.”

Pharr Forward has issued two news releases over the last week or so denouncing Pharr First for violating campaign finance laws. Hernandez said Pharr First candidates should step forward and admit they have made mistakes in this regard.

“I am a voter as well. I just want to know the facts. That is all I care about. The rest is just window dressing. I want to know the facts. Where do you stand, what have you done for us, have you made mistakes. We are a very forgiving country. If you made a mistake the easiest thing is to say I made a mistake and say how you are going to fix it. We are all human, we all make mistakes,” Hernandez said.

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part series on the race to be mayor of Pharr. Part Two will be posted Friday.