MCALLEN, Texas – After a sterling year, South Texas Health System closed 2022 with a huge milestone: receiving a Level I trauma designation from the Texas Department of State Health Services for STHS McAllen. 

To celebrate the momentous occasion, a ceremony was held at the hospital with doctors, nurses, first responders and dignitaries in attendance. 

Todd Mann, CEO for STHS McAllen, thanked everyone at STHS and their partners for their hard work and dedication to obtain the notable distinction.

“I am incredibly grateful for the staff that show up here every day, that provide amazing care to our community,” said Mann. “That’s what it’s about, guys. It’s about the care we provide. The plaque looks great on the wall, but it really, truly is about our mission of providing excellent care to our community, and our staff does that every single day.”

Mann also specifically recognized the STHS McAllen trauma department itself, including Trauma Medical Director Dr. John W. Hovorka; Associate Trauma Medical Director Dr. J. Jesus Rendon; Director of Research Dr. Carlos H. Palacio; and trauma surgeon Dr. LeRone Simpson. Together, they overcame seemingly insurmountable challenges and provided effective and unorthodox solutions in order to secure this highest accolade.

“They are the backbone of this program,” said Mann. “They are the ones who drive this. Ultimately, they are the ones taking care of the patients in the ICU, the ER and potentially in surgery. So, I couldn’t say enough about them, their dedication. Without them, none of this would be possible.”

In February 2019, STHS McAllen became the first hospital in the Hidalgo County to achieve a Level II trauma designation after approval from the American College of Surgeons. Now, it is one of only 21 hospitals in the state to operating as a Level I trauma facility. STHS McAllen is also part of the STHS Trauma and Critical Care Institute, which consists of 10 emergency room departments from across the Valley – the largest integrated emergency network south of San Antonio. 

“We’re proud to cover entire communities all around the Rio Grande Valley, and this is just one more milestone of us achieving greatness,” said Mann.

To highlight their great work, Enrique “Quique” Rodriguez, a former trauma patient at STHS McAllen was invited to tell his story. While driving home in September 2021, the 20-year-old was struck by a vehicle involved in a police chase. He was severely injured and his mother was told his chances of survival were slim to none. After undergoing brain and lung surgeries, he was put in an induced coma and stayed in the ICU for two weeks. He was eventually moved to STHS McAllen’s outpatient center where he had to relearn basic skills like walking and talking. In May 2022, he was discharged after 7 months of rehabilitation. Fully recovered, Rodriguez, now a nursing student at South Texas College, wants to pay it forward to others like him.

“I want to be able to take care of people the way I was taken care of,” said Rodriguez. “I want to give back. What was given to me, I want to repay that.”

Rodriguez added, “I’m really thankful … for this second chance at life that I was given.”

With stories like Rodriguez’s, McAllen City Commissioner Pepe Cabeza de Vaca, who spoke at the ceremony, says that he and his family as well as local residents should feel much safer now that they have a top trauma facility in their backyard.

“You don’t have to be transported out of the region or go somewhere else,” said Cabeza de Vaca. “We have that care right here.”

In a pre-recorded video message to attendees, McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos congratulated STHS McAllen and repeated the sentiment, saying that “the quality of life and quality health care is of the utmost importance” in the city.

Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez took a moment to emphasize the importance of health care for our underinsured population and thanked STHS for their continued investment in the community. 

“What you all have done here and demonstrated is that we are a good area to invest in,” said Cortez. “… So, we’re very, very grateful for your continued support, your continued investment. The services that you provide are excellent … This is a big deal.”

Despite the recent recognition, Mann pointed to STHS McAllen’s unwavering “commitment to provide quality, compassionate care to the communities we serve.” 

“When there was (sic) no trauma level designations, we were always here for our community no matter what,” said Mann.

Since its days as “the white hospital,” and now in 2023 and beyond, its dedication to the people of South Texas strongly remains. 

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