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.

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.

Brownsville Builds A Culture of Health for Better Future

Brownsville, Texas, and Matamoros, Mexico, were founded together and sit on opposite sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Brownsville is one of the poorest metro areas in the country. Ninety-seven percent of the people in Brownsville are Hispanic and 87 percent prefer to speak Spanish at home. At best, only 60 percent of its students graduate from high school, and 34 percent of its residents live below the poverty level.“One in three of our people are diabetic, and 80 percent are either obese or overweight,” said Rose Zavaletta Gowen, MD, City Commissioner in Brownsville. “Those statistics reflect not just those that are the poorest among us, but they also reflect those in the highest income levels. So, the entire community faces health disparities.”
A Promotora - Brownsville Community Health Worker

A Promotora – Brownsville Community Health Worker

Despite these obstacles, over the past decade the people of Brownsville—from its elected officials to its community leaders to its students—have come together in a shared mission to improve the health of everyone who calls it home.

“We knew that as we crossed disciplines, we had to speak to and engage those that are most vulnerable, as well as those that are not,” she said. “Poverty, jobs, education, health are all connected, and you can’t really examine one without the other.”

Free Community Exercise Class

Free Community Exercise Class

Brownsville understood that one person’s health was linked to that of another and how working together to improve the entire community—to treat the “whole body”—was the best way to create sustainable health solutions.There were several catalysts that propelled Brownsville down its current journey to a Culture of Health, including The University of Texas School of Public Health, which came to the city in 2001 and worked hard to become a true community partner — overcoming a history of mistrust of academic institutions that “swooped in” to conduct research without sharing results or collaborating on next steps. The School began by sharing local health data with residents in neighborhood meetings, which sparked a desire to do something to turn the dire rates of obesity and overweight around.

Together with now more than 200 organizations, residents and individuals from health care, education, business and community groups, the School formed the Community Advisory Board (CAB) to examine the data on the community’s health risks, and work collaboratively with partners to find solutions that will drive better health. The CAB’s members “carry the message of wellness into their homes and businesses, and they’re able to affect policy and environmental changes by voting and leadership—and that’s how we have been able to include the community, by engaging them every single step of the way,” said Belinda Reininger, DrPh, Associate Professor at The University of Texas School of Public Health.About the same time, the city and other large employers in the area embarked on a long-range plan called Imagine Brownsville. The strategy was a business-driven look at the city’s future that evaluated the environment, health, education and other factors to assess the community’s needs. Together with the Community Advisory Board, Imagine Brownsville developed a set of shared measurable goals in areas such as fostering active transportation and healthy eating, with a community champion for each.

“We knew that health did not belong in a silo,” Gowen said. “We knew that there were economic factors and educational factors, so we learned very quickly how to speak different languages. We learned how to talk about health in terms of the economy, how to talk about it in terms of the environment and where to find those common areas where all of those factors intersected.”

The result? The diverse set of partners now share instead of compete for resources, have worked together to pass bold new health-promoting policies such as an ordinance for new businesses to install sidewalks; and an increase in parking meter fees to generate income to support bike safety and downtown revitalization, and have been tapped as a model for creative, low-cost, solutions that capitalize on existing assets to create a vibrant, healthy community.

“We knew that there were economic factors and educational factors, so we learned very quickly how to speak different languages. We learned how to talk about health in terms of the economy, how to talk about it in terms of the environment and where to find those common areas where all of those factors intersected, said Brownsville City Commissioner Rose Zavaletta Gowen, MD.

“It should be possible to walk to a bus stop, get on a bus and walk safely to your destination. It should be possible to ride your bike to a bus stop, put your bike on a bus and use your bike when you get off a bus,” said Gowen. “And that is what we’re striving for: Seamless, uninterrupted transportation.”Brownsville has placed a heavy emphasis on active transportation as part of its efforts to build a healthier community. “Brownsville In Motion” uses community meetings and an interactive website to solicit feedback about the best routes for trails, identify issues of safety and violence that need to be addressed to enable outdoor activity, and to galvanize support for sweeping policies that were adopted by city leadership, including a Complete Streets policy.The Belden Trail is the start of a larger planned network of bike and pedestrian trails, and the community is committed to ensuring that every Brownsville resident is within a half-mile radius from a bike trail  Already, after much effort among partners, approximately 20 percent more people (35,000) now enjoy this access.The city has also created a number of bike programs to encourage getting from “A” to “B” through healthy movement. One example is the Bike Barn, which brings kids together to learn about the importance of staying active, teaches them the constructive skill of bike repair as well as bike safety and then—after a set period of volunteering—gives them their very own bike.

“The Bike Barn has become very effective in engaging the interest of the children that live in the area in not only bike repair, but community building and riding bikes on a more frequent basis,” Gowen said. “It is a great model that could be duplicated in other schools and other parks throughout the city.”

Finally there is CycloBia, where thousands of residents walk, run, cycle, and enjoy outdoor activities in traffic-free streets They’re usually on Sundays, although recently the city has started nighttime CycloBias as a way to escape the heat on Friday nights. Thousands of people — yes, thousands — come together for this event, enjoying their city in a new and active way, said Art Rodriguez, director of the City of Brownsville Health Department.

Effective communication and advocacy within a community means knowing the community—who they are, their culture, their concerns—and speaking with residents in ways they’ll understand best. For Brownsville, that means a bilingual approach.According to Gowen, “The Mexican-American culture in Brownsville is a strength. We live and work and celebrate on both sides of the border, and it’s important that we reach out in English and Spanish. The more that we are diverse in our messaging, the more people we reach and the more changes we effect.”

Part of that approach is the use of “Promotoras”—community health workers who engage and educate people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to health care, as well as to connect them with community resources. As community members themselves, the Promotoras also benefit from job training and economic opportunities. This helps to fuel the local economy and create more opportunities for health through stable income.

Although community health workers exist in many different places throughout the country, one thing that sets the Brownsville effort apart is the extent to which this role has been institutionalized. Brownsville’s Promotoras are certified through a state program, but many do not have college degrees. Despite this obstacle, Brownsville’s Community Advisory Board leadership recently succeeded in creating academic appointments (with benefits) for the Brownsville community health workers, who are now serving as Research Assistants at the UT Brownsville School of Public Health.

Promotoras also serve an important connecting role in the community. Gowen notes examples: “They also speak to the community about events that are coming… They engage folks in healthy cooking lessons while they’re in the homes and tell them where free exercise classes are. They also provide referrals to needed health resources. Their work is effective and translates to fewer trips to the hospital, lower rates of chronic illness, higher engagement and higher participation in the community as a whole.”

One of the key community resources the Promotoras now have to connect residents to is a robust system of affordable, healthy food and economic opportunities through the Brownsville Farmers’ Market. Community gardens in economically depressed food insecure neighborhoods are part of the mission of the Market, in an effort to boost income generation opportunities, as well as healthy foods options, for the entire community. Families gather in groups for training on gardening, small business development, nutrition and health, and plant their gardens in city-donated vacant lots, some of which are designed by architecture students and built by AmeriCorps/YouthBuild volunteers.

Finally, Brownsville’s public health efforts include “Tu Salud ¡Si Cuenta!”—or “Your Health Matters!”—a bilingual community wide campaign program that uses television, radio and print to motivate people on both sides of the border to increase their physical activity and healthful food choices said Reininger. Results from the Cameron County Hispanic Cohort study indicate this approach works, as residents are more likely to be physically active and eat more fruits and vegetables.

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