EDINBURG, RGV — The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, its School of Medicine and its governmental and community collaborators drew praise Friday for their work in providing family- and community-based healthcare to the Valley’s most vulnerable residents.

Dr. Kenneth Shine, former executive chancellor for Health Affairs at The University of Texas System and a current board member of United Health Foundation, delivered the keynote address at a symposium, “Interprofessional Education and Practice in the RGV: STITCHing it all up!” on Dec. 4 in Edinburg. He lauded the university, medical school and partnering agencies for the initiatives undertaken by the South Texas Integrated Team Collaborative for Health (STITCH).

“I believe you are pioneers,” Shine told the group. “And I think the contributions that you’ve made will be important for the Valley.”

He said the trend in the American healthcare system is toward population-based care, and UTRGV and its partners are on the frontier of providing that sort of care, with the potential to being leaders in how healthcare is administered across the country.

The daylong symposium was funded under a $2.8 million grant from United Health Foundation, which kick-started UTRGV’s Valley Inter-professional Development and Services (VIDAS), which includes STITCH.

The focus of the symposium was to bring together clinicians, educators, researchers, learners and others from various disciplines within the university and the community, to discuss population health issues and identify areas for research.

UTRGV plans to have a follow-up Population Health Summit in January to develop an action plan and address some of all of the population health concerns discussed at the symposium.

Dr. John Ronnau, senior associate dean for interprofessional education at UTRGV’s School of Medicine, said having a positive impact in the Valley depends on building and maintaining relationships. The symposium is part of the university and School of

Medicine’s plan to fulfill an agenda of working with community partners to serve the Valley’s healthcare needs.

“It’s one more step toward aligning the community’s needs with what we teach and what we research at UTRGV,” Ronnau said.

Dr. Francisco Fernandez, founding dean of the UTRGV School of Medicine, gave attendees a brief history of how the VIDAS grant came to be, and marveled at the strong support UTRGV received from other higher education institutions, health agencies and other partners.

“It was an easy application to write because, aside from the commitment that everybody brought to the table — everybody put their heart on the table —when you look at convening the stakeholders that we had, it was just spectacular how people came together to make sure the mission was going to play itself out. It was going to take place in vivo, in the community, and that’s absolutely the greatest joy – that you can see it come to life,” he said.

Participants also heard from representatives from the School of Medicine, as well as from the Cameron County and Hidalgo County departments of health and human services, Tropical Texas Behavioral Health, and HOPE Family Health Center

UTRGV President Guy Bailey said having collaborative partnerships with agencies and organizations throughout the Valley and beyond is important for the university to fulfill its mission of providing quality education and healthcare to the region.

“As Dr. Shine said, I think we’re on the frontiers of medicine,” Bailey said. “These kinds of collaborative efforts, where you pull together healthcare teams — not just doctors, but entire healthcare teams — to approach problems in places that normally don’t have healthcare, have the potential for an enormous impact.

“Our university belongs to the Valley. We can’t do what we want to do without these partnerships. We can’t achieve the goals we want to achieve without their being part of what we’re doing,” he said.


[email protected] UTRGV Director of News and Internal Communications


[email protected] UTRGV Director of Public Relations