EDINBURG, Texas – In a ceremony held at the construction site for its new location, Driscoll Children’s Hospital celebrated the receipt of the largest grant in its history – $17 million – courtesy of the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation. 

VBLF, established in 2011, has funded many projects and entities with the goal of improving “health and quality of life in the Rio Grande Valley.” The organization has also invested in specialty care and follow-up clinics in underserved communities across the region. Judy Quisenberry, executive director of VBLF, said the nonprofit remains grateful for these health centers and noted that up until now their funding has been very limited. 

“Funding these clinics has been a bit like dipping our toes in the water,” said Quisenberry, “But, we’ve now jumped into in the deep end, haven’t we? This is the second largest grant we’ve ever awarded in the history of our 12 years as a funder, and we’re so proud of the ability that it will have to create access to specialty care.”

The $17 million grant will be awarded over three years and is earmarked specifically for the recruitment of pediatric specialists and their teams to the Rio Grande Valley. With this significant contribution to Driscoll Children’s Hospital, Quisenberry says families will have access to the specialty care their children need without having to travel to the hospital’s main campus in Corpus Christi.

“I think we probably all know someone who has benefited from the care a family member has received at Driscoll,” said Quisenberry. “I didn’t realize just how many families they were serving, but 40 percent of their patients come from the Rio Grande Valley. That’s an awful lot, so what better way to be able to bring that care than to bring it right here to our region. One of the reasons that they have so many of our patients is simply we don’t have the specialists here to treat some of the most serious illnesses, injuries and other conditions our children suffer from. As one of the most underserved areas in the state and, frankly, in the country when it comes to health specialties, we are thrilled in being able to assist Driscoll in establishing this hospital.”

Eric Hamon, president and CEO of Driscoll Health System, called the grant “a truly transformative gift,” and spoke about the impact it will have for the Valley.

“Although Driscoll has been coming to this market for over 70 years – our doctors have been coming daily, we’re seeing patients – we know we can do more locally,” said Hamon. “With this new hospital, the level of service is going to be significantly enhanced, and with that enhancement, we need to recruit and have more pediatric specialists in the region. And, we are absolutely 100 percent committed to the community.”

Matt Wolthoff, president of the soon-to-be-completed Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley, shared the story of Audrey Garza, who was diagnosed with acute transverse myelitis at nine months old. The illness, which involves inflammation of the spinal cord, left her unable to walk, and she and her family have had to travel to Corpus Christi for her medical appointments. With Audrey and her family present in the front row, Wolthoff said those days are in the past.

“Today, we celebrate hope for children,” said Wolthoff. “…At Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley, we are building a world-class team led by pediatric specialists to make a great community an even better one. With the opening of the region’s first free-standing designated children’s hospital, our ability to recruit additional full-time pediatric specialists will be critical to our team’s success towards ensuring all children in the Rio Grande Valley have access to specialty care … Together we are witnessing a historic moment in the history of Driscoll and children’s health care in South Texas. Today with the help of the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation, we are taking a huge step towards our vision of a Rio Grande Valley where children and families no longer have to travel to seek care, with very limited exceptions.”

Sarah A Garza, vice president of clinics and physician groups for Driscoll Health System, estimates that over 20 specialists and their teams will be able to permanently transfer to the area with the funding. She and her team have already begun recruiting and are finalizing contracts for many of these positions. And, though construction is ongoing for the new hospital, Garza says patients won’t necessarily have to wait until its completed. She explains that several Driscoll doctors already travel daily to attend to Valley patients, and those being recruited will most likely begin practicing in an outpatient setting. 

“So soon, very soon, our families won’t have to travel,” said Garza. “They can get this life-saving care right here. Driscoll has always cared for children regardless of their ability to pay, and that won’t change. We deserve this level of care, and we deserve to have it right here in our region.”

When asked to comment on their momentous gift, Quisenberry pointed to the true recipients. 

“I think you can just look at the eyes of Audrey, the little girl, and see how important it is for her family to not have to drive to Corpus every month for a visit,” said Quisenberry, “And, that’s a really good visual for what we don’t have to do anymore. The Valley deserves that.”

For more information about the Valley Baptist Legacy Foundation and their funded partners, you can visit their website here

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