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HOUSTON, Texas – Edinburg gastroenterologist Carlos J. Cardenas, MD, has become the 152nd president of the Texas Medical Association.

A co-founder of Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, where he serves as chief administrative officer, Cardenas was installed as president during TexMed, the association’s annual conference.

“I am looking forward to an exciting year of advocacy on behalf of our patients and my colleagues,” said Dr. Cardenas. “With all of the uncertainty coming out of Washington, and the instability in the health care arena, I believe opportunities will present themselves in abundance to drive policy and opinion in the best interest of our patients and our profession.”

TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 50,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 110 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans.

Cardenas has practiced gastroenterology for 28 years. He told Texas Medicine magazine that he grew up observing strong leadership in his family.

“My dad is a type AAA personality,” he said. “He was all about community and community development. If there was a board, he served on it. If he wasn’t just serving on it, he was chair. I think what I learned about leadership, what I learned about community involvement, what I learned about politics I learned from my dad; that’s where I got it,” he said in an interview in TMA’s Texas Medicine magazine.

A TMA news release said Cardenas’ father was not his only leadership role model.

“You have to lead by example; that’s something I learned from my grandmother, my mom’s mom. I was the oldest of 17 grandchildren and she used to tell me that I had to set the example [for the younger children].”

“I think that applies to you in every aspect of your training when you are becoming a physician,” he added. “You learn very quickly when you are an intern that you need to follow the example of those who are more senior than you are, and who know more than you do.” Eventually, he said, you learn to step up and accept the responsibility as leader of the health care team, in the name of providing the best patient care.

Sometimes that means rolling up one’s sleeves.

“I learned to never ask anybody to do something I wasn’t willing to do myself. I was willing to set the tone and to at least show that I was willing,” he said.

That attitude is partly why he said he is ready to lead the nation’s largest state medical society during discussions of undoing the Affordable Care Act and other potential health care changes.

“When those opportunities arise, our TMA is up to the challenge,” he said. “Bring it on!”

A news release from TMA listed some of the leadership roles Dr. Cardenas has held.

A member of the TMA for 33 years, Dr. Cardenas chaired the association’s Board of Trustees, its governing body. Prior to joining the Board in 2005, he served five years as a member of the TMA Council on Legislation, and was legislative chair of the Border Health Caucus, to which he still belongs. He is a delegate in TMA’s House of Delegates. Dr. Cardenas also is a member of the TMA Foundation, the association’s philanthropic arm; a TMA liaison to the Coalition of State Medical Societies; and is a founding and Patron Club member of TEXPAC, TMA’s political action committee (on which he also served as a district chair).

Dr. Cardenas regularly advocates on behalf of medicine and patient care. He attends TMA’s “First Tuesdays at the Capitol” legislative lobby days each session, has testified numerous times before the Texas Legislature, and has advised elected officials and policymakers in Texas and in Washington on health matters.

Dr. Cardenas also was a member of the TMA Physician Services Organization (PSO) steering committee, which led to the formation of TMA PracticeEdge, TMA’s PSO. Dr. Cardenas also served as president of the Hidalgo-Starr County Medical Society, of which he still is a member.

The TMA news release pointed out that Dr. Cardenas has also appeared in a series of informational TMA “Hey, Doc” videos, designed to explain the new federal Affordable Care Act. TMA produced the videos and other material to inform patients — and physicians whose patients often turn to for answers — about how to adapt to the new health law.

One of Dr. Cardenas’ proudest achievements was helping to lead TMA’s fight for medical liability reform, which became Texas law in 2003. Doctors in the Rio Grande Valley and a few other Texas cities planted that seed when they believed rampant medical liability lawsuits eroded patient care.

“When you get shot at all the time, when 70 percent or more of your colleagues are named in a lawsuit or a party to a lawsuit and you can no longer recruit, retain or attract [physicians] to your community to do what needed to be done for the health of your community, something had to change,” said Dr. Cardenas. “That was something that drove me and others in our community to stand up and say, ‘No more.’ We came together and organized.”

Dr. Cardenas received his medical degree at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, and completed his residency training in internal medicine and gastroenterology at Scott & White Memorial Hospital in Temple.

He and his wife of 28 years, Chris Cardenas, have three sons, Adam R. Cardenas, Simon C. Cardenas, and Daniel O. Cardenas. His parents are Mr. Ruben R. Cardenas and Mrs. Dardanella G. Cardenas.

Also at TexMed, Dr. E. Linda Villarreal, MD, an Edinburg internist for 28 years, was reelected to continue serving on the TMA Board of Trustees.

“Being a physician is who I am; I love my profession and my patients,” said Dr. Villarreal. “One way to maintain and protect that very special relationship is to stay involved with organized medicine through TMA and to serve on the Board of Trustees. The work is ongoing, and I am privileged to be a part of it.”

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