Manny Vela
Manny Vela

HARLINGEN, RGV – The recent announcement of the formation of the new University of Texas Rio Grande Valley South Texas Diabetes and Obesity Institute is great news for the entire Rio Grande Valley and for our families.

While great efforts have been made over the past 40 years to educate the public about diabetes, a long-term cross-disciplinary program like the new institute – led by Sarah Williams-Blangero and a 22-person team of researchers and support staff – will provide the best opportunity yet to help create a lasting change which has the potential to greatly improve the health and future of the Rio Grande Valley. This new team effort can create synergies with existing research efforts already underway to address these critical issues of public health in the Valley.

As more of our families become educated and empowered on how to prevent and control diabetes and obesity, more of our residents will become physically fit and better able to fully enjoy a long life — without the tragedy of early amputation, blindness, heart disease and kidney loss which cuts short the quality of life of so many diabetes patients in the Valley.

Indeed, instead of being known as “Diabetesville USA” (from documentary filmed in Valley by Michael Seringer of San Antonio, 2011) and as the “one of the fattest places in the country” (Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, 2012), we foresee a future where cutting-edge research and effective education programs will make the Valley the leader in how to fight diabetes and obesity – and how to win that fight.

The hospitals of the Valley stand ready to work with all of our community partners in this great effort, including the entire UT System along with the UT-RGV School of Medicine and its inaugural dean, Dr. Francisco Fernandez; the physicians, clinics and other institutions of the Valley; and all Valley residents.

Let us celebrate the establishment of the South Texas Diabetes and Obesity Institute and resolve to work together to build a healthier community for all Valley residents.

– Israel Rocha, Jr., Chief Executive Officer, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance

– Bill Adams, Regional CEO, Harlingen Medical Center and Knapp Medical Center

– Brenda Ivory, CEO, Harlingen Medical Center

– Javier Iruegas, CEO, Mission Regional Medical Center

– Cris Rivera, CEO, Rio Grande Regional Hospital

– Douglas Matney, Regional Vice President, South Texas Health System

– Manny Vela, CEO, Valley Baptist Health System

– Susan Andrews, CEO, Valley Regional Medical Center