South Texas College named among the top nursing schools in the southwest

McAllen, TEXAS – South Texas College has one of the country’s top nursing schools in the southwest region.

A study by the Research Team at Nursing Schools Almanac, which collected data on over 3,200 institutions nationwide ranked STC’s Division of Nursing and Allied Health (NAH) 45 out of more than 350 nursing schools considered in the southwest, which includes schools in Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Only 10 percent of the 3,200 schools made the final list.
Of the top 100 nursing schools in the United States, only 4 institutions were located in Texas including UT Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and Texas Tech University.

“It is an honor to be included in one of the country’s top 50 nursing schools in the southwest region especially being evaluated against universities that offer Bachelors of Science in Nursing and other graduate nursing degree programs,” said Jayson Valerio, Interim Dean of the Nursing & Allied Health Center at STC.
“This recognition can be attributed to South Texas College main core values such as excellence, innovation, giving back to the community, professionalism, collaboration, integrity, and most especially student success,” Valerio said. “We take pride in promoting student success and completion of their degree through the implementation of diverse and individualized strategies and initiatives. The NAH Division is gifted with a high caliber of faculty and staff and highly engaging student support services.”

STC Associate Degree Nursing students receive detailed instructions during a class at the Dr. Ramiro R. Casso Nursing and Allied Health Campus located in McAllen.

NAH offers an ADN program with three entry points: a traditional two-year pathway for non-nurses, a three-semester pathway for EMT paramedics, and a 12-month pathway for existing LVNs.

STC also offers a three-semester LVN certificate program that provides classroom instruction and clinical practice in the nursing care of four populations: adults, mothers / newborns, children, and the elderly. The college graduates 100-120 new LVNs and nearly 200 new RNs annually.
Students of all programs have exhibited strong licensure exam pass rates. Since 2008, LVN students have achieved an NCLEX-PN pass rate of 85.2 percent, while ADN students have achieved an NCLEX-RN pass rate of 85.4 percent. The National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) is administered by individual State Boards of Nursing. The exam is used to determine a nurse’s eligibility to begin practice as an entry-level practical/vocational nurse.

“As the healthcare delivery system is changing at a rapid pace, our faculty not just in nursing but as well as other allied health programs must keep abreast with the trends in fostering safe and high-quality healthcare,” Valerio said. “The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) is a proficiency exam that evaluates safety. As a registered nurse and a nurse-educator myself, I have the professional and legal obligation to produce graduates that are safe and competent. We, the faculty in both programs, need to arm our students with a complex set of knowledge, skills, and values that empower them to function safely and efficiently in the healthcare setting.”

According to the Research Team (2016), each nursing school in the region was evaluated on three dimensions, this included the institution’s academic prestige and perceived value, which represented 50 percent of the overall score.
Prestige and value were measured by:
• Graduates’ ability to repay their student debt in a timely manner
• Professional designations)
• Grant funding for nursing research from the National Institutes of Health
• Other established methodologies including U.S. News & World Report’s MSN and DNP rankings.

STC was also ranked according to the breadth and depth of nursing programs offered, which comprised 15 percent of the overall score, and student success, particularly on the NCLEX national licensure, which comprised 35 percent of the institution’s overall score.

“This remarkable distinction would not be possible without the headship team of South Texas College and the academic chairs headed Dr. Christie Candelaria and faculty and staff for the ADN department and Ms. Daphine Mora, RN, MEd, program chair for the vocational nursing and faculty and staff,” Valerio said. “Having been at the College for almost 13 years and currently serving as the Interim Dean of Nursing and Allied Health for less than a year, one thing I can attest, is the outstanding Leadership Team at the College headed by our founding President, Dr, Shirley Reed, and Vice-President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Anahid Petrosian, and the members of the College Board of Trustees.
“This leadership team is always committed to student success by maintaining high expectations, setting courageous goals, and constantly seeking methods for improvement and innovations to provide a better quality of life in our community,” he said.

For more information the South Texas College Division of Nursing and Allied Health visit


STITCH Collaboration Brings Preventive Health Care to Valley

UTRGV Photo by Kristela Garza. Pictured: UTRGV medical resident Dr. Charles Lewis checks blood pressure for residents of the Indian Hills colonia during a recent STITCH health care fair.

UTRGV Photo by Kristela Garza. Pictured: UTRGV medical resident Dr. Charles Lewis checks blood pressure for residents of the Indian Hills colonia during a recent STITCH health care fair.

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine has launched an interdisciplinary approach to providing preventive health care for Valley residents who are underserved.

UTRGV, in partnership with the Hidalgo County Health Department and a host of other collaborators including hospitals, nonprofit organizations and educational institutions, has started offering health screenings and other services to Valley residents who live in the colonia of Indian Hills in Hidalgo County, and in Cameron Park in Cameron County.

The colonia health program is part of UTRGV’s South Texas Interprofessional Team Collaborative for Health, known as STITCH, which involves representatives from a variety of professions including researchers, clinicians, promotoras and others, in providing care to the community.

The colonias were selected based on their size, need for care, level of infrastructure and other criteria set by the state.

UTRGV and the Hidalgo County Department of Health on July 11 kicked off the health care program at Indian Hills with free screenings, including blood pressure monitoring, vision and hearing testing, immunizations…

Read more at The Valley Morning Star.

UT Project Aims to Reduce Diabetes Risks


The University of Texas System aims to use social, mobile and cloud technology — with cognitive analytical tools — to develop healthcare delivery solutions customized for individual patients in the Rio Grande Valley.

Lydia Chin, UT System’s associate vice chancellor for Health Transformations and chief innovation officer of Health Affairs for the UT System, said Project Diabetes and Obesity Control (DOC) began more than a year ago.

Chin said the system has been investing in the Rio GrandeValley with the development of the new UT Rio Grande Valley, the UTRGV School of Medicine — which is set to open in 2016 — and the South Texas Diabetes and Obesity Institute, which will bring a research team to look into the disease in the area.

“How do we manage the health care of the populations?” Chin said. “And I would say diabetes is a major problem and Project DOC is really that component. We want to educate the next generation, we want to know particular knowledge about the disease in this particular population in South Texas, but we also want to take care of the population.”

Over the last year, the project evolved from the system’s early work at the MD Anderson Cancer Center on…

Read more at The McAllen Monitor.

Cameron County Health District Bill Passes

The state Legislature on Monday gave final approval to a bill that would allow Cameron County voters to decide whether to create a healthcare district that would carry a tax and would pull federal money to help fund indigent health care.

Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign the bill, local officials said.

“We’re excited. This gives us a tool we could utilize in the future,” County Judge Pete Sepulveda said. “When you look at the indigent population and the population without health insurance … this will help us leverage funds for uninsured residents in Cameron County.”

The bill, filed by state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, does not create a healthcare district. Rather, the bill would require Cameron County, if petitioned by 100 registered voters, to…

Read more at The McAllen Monitor.

Health Care District for Cameron County

Both the Harlingen City Commission and Cameron County Commissioners Court decide Thursday if they support opening the door to the possible creation of a new taxing district — a health care district — in Cameron County, although others are a step ahead.

Public records show that Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, filed a bill Tuesday that if passed, would require Cameron County, if petitioned, to hold an election where voters would decide whether to create a health care district, which functions as a hospital district. Commissioners Court would call for the election if petitioned by 100 registered voters.

On Tuesday night, San Benito city commissioners voted to approve a resolution in support of the bill.

City Manager Manuel Lara highly recommended to the city leaders that they support the effort.

Under the proposed bill, and if voters approve creating the taxing district, the tax rate could be up to 25 cents per $100 of assessed property valuation. The 25 cents would be the cap.

The revenues would be earmarked for providing medical and hospital care for the needy of Cameron County, improving health services and supporting the School of Medicine of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

The taxing district also would have the authority to issue bonds and the power of eminent domain, which is the taking of private property for public use in exchange for compensation.

Lucio was not available Tuesday to comment as to who authorized the filing of the bill.

Mayor Chris Boswell was not immediately available for comment.

This did not come as a surprise to Cameron County Judge Pete Sepulveda Jr., however, who said Tuesday that he and Lucio had talked about the

Read more at The Valley Morning Star.

Vela Outlines Case for Expanding Medicaid, Or Something Similar

Valley Baptist Health System CEO Manny Vela (second from left) spoke in favor of Medicaid expansion, or something similar, at Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance in January. Photo Courtesy of the Rio Grande Guardian.

Valley Baptist Health System CEO Manny Vela (second from left) spoke in favor of Medicaid expansion, or something similar, at Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance in January. Photo Courtesy of the Rio Grande Guardian.

Appearing before a House panel recently, former UT-Pan American student Aaron Barriero testified that far too many Rio Grande Valley residents are afraid to see a doctor or go to the hospital.

Barriero works at Edinburg Regional Hospital in the emergency department. He is hoping to be admitted into the inaugural class of the UT-Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine.

At a Rio Grande Valley Leadership class at TSTC in Harlingen, Manny Vela, CEO of Valley Baptist Health System was asked if Barriero’s comments were accurate, that too many Valley residents are afraid to see a health specialist.

Vela said Barriero’s testimony was, sadly, true. Vela said there are probably three explanations. One is that some Valley residents are simply afraid to find out what their ailment is. Another is that they do not have the means to purchase healthcare insurance. Another one again is that they are undocumented and therefore afraid to come out of the shadows.

“All too often you get people visiting emergency department who are well down the road from an acute perspective with regard to their illness. They have not had access to care previously and by the time they get to the emergency room, the cost is exponentially higher than it would be otherwise,” Vela explained.

Vela pointed out that the cost of a visit to the emergency room is, approximately, ten times greater than a visit to a primary care physician.

“You might say, so what, right? This is the so what and this is what I hope resonates with you guys,” Vela told the RGV Leadership class. “When someone who is uninsured comes into one of our facilities, there is a federal law that obligates us to care for them. We take these people at will. Some of us do more uncompensated care work than others. In fact, Valley Baptist does the most in the Valley, but the other hospitals do their fair share as well.”

Vela then explained the ramifications of uncompensated care. “We take these folks but don’t kid yourself. The cost of care escalates for the rest of us who have access to insurance through an increase in our premiums. Any time there is a cost in the provision of healthcare the insurance companies have to raise their rates. The relevance is this…

Read more at the Rio Grande Guardian.

UTPA Students Testify In Favor Of Hidalgo County Healthcare District

If UTPA student Staphany Ortega’s grandmother had known that a Hidalgo County Hospital District was going to help fund the new UTRGV School of Medicine she would have voted for it, not against.

This was the testimony Ortega provided at a hearing of the Texas House County Affairs Committee at the state Capitol on Thursday.

Ortega was one of two UTPA students to make the long trip to Austin to testify in support of House Bill 1596. The legislation, authored by state Rep. R.D. ‘Bobby’ Guerra, D-McAllen, would decrease the maximum rate of tax a Hidalgo County Healthcare District could charge. Instead of 75 cents per $100 valuation, which is what it is now, it would be 25 cents.

Ortega explained that she is a senior at UTPA and is majoring in Biology. “I will be pursuing a career in medicine in the near future. I will be applying for the entering class of 2016,” Ortega said, referencing the new UTRGV School of Medicine. Ortega said she got a “wonderful opportunity” to attend Texas Christian University in Fort Worth for two years. She said it opened her eyes to pursuing a career in medicine.

Ortega believes Valley’s new medical school, along with a hospital district in Hidalgo County, would help address a shortage of healthcare professionals in the region. She testified that her family knows firsthand about the shortage of specialist doctors because her father was left a quadriplegic due to an accident and her ten-year old brother contracted cerebral palsy at an early age. Ortega said there is a lack of neurosurgeons in the Valley.

“The Valley needs a lot of physicians. We lack a lot of specialties. Speaking as a student, as a Valley resident, and as somebody who has been through it first hand with my family, we really need physicians but specifically culturally sensitive physicians who are bilingual, who can effectively communicate with the people who live there,” Ortega testified.

Last November, Hidalgo County residents narrowly voted against setting up a hospital district. Guerra’s bill renames it a healthcare district. Ortega thinks there was a misunderstanding in the community about what the hospital/healthcare district would do.

“Concerning the people who voted against it, my grandmother actually voted against this bill,” Ortega testified. “My grandmother has lived in the Rio Grande Valley her entire life and she watches the news every day and she was very misinformed.

Read more at the Rio Grande Guardian 

Future Medical School Means Transformative Growth in Edinburg

The City of Edinburg is already reaping the benefits from a future medical school before it even opens, according to city leaders.

From record numbers of building permits to fielding questions from interested parties regarding development in the city, a transformation is not so quietly taking place that will launch Edinburg into a new era of growth, according to city manager Ramiro Garza.

“With the new medical school opening, it has become a destination type of marketing opportunity not only for us but for the region,” Garza said. “We just see that as the additional benefit because we already know the benefits it brings to us by just having a medical school here.”

The UT Board of Regents has appropriated $196 million for construction, including $54 million for an academic building for the future UT-RGV medical school.
As part of a Memorandum of Understanding signed by all the major cities in the Rio Grande Valley with the University of Texas System, Edinburg has pledged $1 million over the next 10 years to support the new medical school, which is slated to open its doors in 2016.

“I think in our case we saw it as an economic development project, for us and for everyone in the Valley,” said Edinburg City Manager Ramiro Garza. “We see the benefit that the medical schools have had in other areas of the country, we know that the impact it will have in our region, may be even more.

“We are going to be able to not only train doctors…..

Read more at Rio Grande Guardian

Gov. Abbott Reminds Obama About Pledge to Build VA Hospital in Rio Grande Valley

Governor Greg Abbott has written to President Obama to remind him of his pledge to build a VA hospital in the Rio Grande Valley.

Obama promised to establish a VA hospital in the region while running for president in 2008. He said such a facility was long overdue while campaigning at UT-Pan American and UT-Brownsville.

Abbott’s letter to Obama is reprinted in full at the end of this story. Abbott pushed for a VA hospital for the Valley during last year’s gubernatorial campaign and reiterated his support when speaking at the Texans Veterans of Foreign Affairs (VFW) Mid-Winter Convention in Austin on Friday.

“The VA in Washington is falling short of its obligations. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the RGV. Even the President recognizes this,” Abbott told veterans at the convention.

“On a trip to the RGV in 2008, Barack Obama said, ‘we need a VA hospital right here in the Valley.’ Veterans shouldn’t have to drive 200 miles for treatment. It’s now 2015 and I’m calling on the President to keep his word. It’s time to build that VA hospital in the Rio Grande Valley. This week – as Governor – I sent a request to the President asking that he fulfill his promise to build that hospital to care for our veterans in the RGV.”

Abbott said the timing couldn’t be better for a VA hospital.

“We’re opening a new medical school and a state-of-the-art…

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Efforts Intensify to Sign Up Hispanics for Obamacare

With the enrollment deadline looming, the Obama administration and advocacy groups are ramping up efforts to sign up millions of Hispanics for health coverage through online exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act.

Activists in states with high Latino populations are using various strategies to recruit a traditionally hard-to-reach group that already faces barriers to health care. The activists have been especially aggressive in Texas and Florida, which declined to expand Medicaid under the 2010 health care law.

Groups such as Enroll America are hosting social media initiatives, airing Spanish-language public service ads and deploying advocates in Hispanic neighborhoods to convince an often reluctant population that enrollment would benefit them and their families.

The enrollment window, which opened Nov. 15, closes Feb. 15.

“We’ve made every effort to double down on the most effective tactics to reach the Latino community,” said Anne Filipic, Enroll America’s president. The liberal advocacy group has set up grass-root efforts to sign up uninsured residents in 11 states, including Arizona, Florida and Texas.

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