The Rio Grande Valley is often referred to as one of the fastest growing regions in the state.

Whether it’s our bolstering economy, the rising population, or the emergence of more educational opportunities, there’s no question that the Valley has begun to make a name for itself as a major player in every facet of the state. As our community continues to grow in size and influence, we must ensure that our voice is always heard in statewide conversations.

This year, a couple of Valley-native trailblazers earned their rightful seat as the heads of two of the largest and most influential professional associations in the state of Texas. Dr. Carlos J. Cardenas, MD, and Dr. Jose “Joey” Cazares, DDS, both of McAllen, were elected by their peers from across the state to serve as the president of Texas Medical Association (TMA) and president of Texas Dental Association (TDA), respectively.

However, these doctors happen to share much more than their notable leadership positions. They both grew up in McAllen, attended the same public schools as classmates, participated in the school band, and graduated together from McAllen High School in 1977. They recall fond childhood memories of each other and have remained friends even when they both went away to college to complete their undergraduate and professional education. Upon completing their schooling and training, they returned to McAllen as practicing doctors – Carlos Cardenas, a Doctor of Medicine in Gastroenterology, and Joey Cazares, a Doctor of Dental Surgery – ready to provide care and improve the public health of their hometown community.

With nearly three decades of experience in medicine and health care administration, Dr. Cardenas has always had a knack for leadership since beginning his medical career in 1985. He helped co-found South Texas Gastroenterology Associates in 1991, where he currently practices. He previously served as president of the Hidalgo-Starr Medical Society, and was also elected to the TMA Board of Trustees in 2005.

Dr. Cardenas serves as Chairman of the Board at Doctors Hospital at Renaissance. Under his tenure, the organization has witnessed significant expansion and is now often recognized as one of the largest physician-owned facilities in the United States. Dr. Cardenas was also instrumental in opening a teaching hospital and residency program that will host students from the new University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine. Dr. Cardenas is fully committed to mentoring and molding the next generation of physicians, and retaining local talent to continue improving healthcare in the Valley. His service as the 2017-2018 President of TMA marks only the second time a Valley doctor has held the position in the association’s 150-year history.

Like his former classmate, McAllen dentist Dr. Jose “Joey” Cazares has always found passion in service beyond his professional practice. Dr. Cazares’ election to serve as the 2017-2018 President of TDA makes him the first ever from the Rio Grande Valley in the association’s history. Some of his previous positions include: past president of the RGV District Dental Society, RGV Academy of General Dentistry, Dentists Who Care, Inc. (a local charity funded by area dentists) and the Texas Academy of General Dentistry. He also participates in policy discussions at the national level, where he currently serves as a member of the Academy of General Dentistry’s Legislative and Governmental Affairs. His experience in state policy spans two decades, and he has long been a champion for providing more dental access for patients, especially for those with very limited income.

Dr. Cardenas and Dr. Cazares demonstrate the leadership and talent that is produced in South Texas, and the entire Rio Grande Valley is immensely proud of them for their service to our community and to our state.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above guest column shows Dr. Carlos Cardenas (left) and Dr. Jose Cazares (right) with Texas House Resolutions presented by state Rep. R.D. ‘Bobby’ Guerra of McAllen. (Photo: RGG/Apolonio Sandoval, Jr.)