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Second STITCH Symposium highlights collaboration between UTRGV and community

Dr. Leonel Vela, UTRGV senior associate dean for education and academic affairs, was one of the presenters at the follow-up STITCH It Up symposium, held March 24, 2016, at the McAllen Convention Center. (UTRGV Photo by Paul Chouy)

By Jennifer L. Berghom

McALLEN, TEXAS -- MARCH 25, 2016 – UTRGV and its School of Medicine faculty and administrators learned just how interwoven they are with each other and the community, during the “STITCH It Up” symposium held Thursday at the McAllen Convention Center.

Twenty faculty members and other researchers gave brief presentations at the meeting about their health-related projects.

Conducted in partnership with the Hidalgo County Department of Health and Human Services, STITCH It Up was a follow-up to a meeting hosted in December as part of the School of Medicine’s South Texas Interprofessional Team Collaborative for Health (STITCH). The goal of the earlier gathering was to bring together clinicians, educators, researchers, learners and others from various disciplines within the university and its community partners, to discuss population health issues and identify areas to pursue research. 

Dr. John Ronnau, senior associate dean for Interprofessional Education at the UTRGV School of Medicine at the December gathering invited faculty and other researchers at UTRGV to present health-related research and other projects for the follow-up meeting. Ronnau’s office received 87 abstracts from some 60 faculty members from 27 departments within the university’s colleges, including the School of Medicine.

“It’s very exciting and gratifying that we’ve had such a great representation all across UTRGV, from all of the colleges,” Ronnau said Thursday. “We know the health and social problems facing the Valley are very complex, as they are in any part of the country, so it’s going to take all of us working together to positively impact population health.”

A $2.8 million grant from United Health Foundation kick-started UTRGV’s Valley Inter-professional Development and Services (VIDAS), which includes STITCH. 

Dr. Francisco Fernandez, inaugural dean of the UTRGV School of Medicine, praised participants for their commitment to collaboration on projects that will help improve the quality of life in the Rio Grande Valley, and said that, in four months, when the medical school’s first 50 students arrive to begin their education, a new chapter also begins in UTRGV’s efforts to close healthcare disparities in the region and beyond.

“The foundation that all of you have created for the most spectacular array of community-based programmatic activities being put together by Dr. Ronnau and others …  and everybody else that really has lent their hard work in the community for our students to participate – I can’t tell you how appreciative and grateful I am,” Fernandez said. “It is going to be a one-of-a-kind program and I thank all of you.”

Dr. Leonel Vela, UTRGV senior associate dean for education and academic affairs, told symposium participants about The University of Texas System’s Collaboration on Population Health Innovation Initiative, in which all of the System’s health institutions come together to develop with a statewide strategic plan for the system to address public health.

“The opportunities and the initiatives that we have now I think are unprecedented for the Valley,” Vela said. “We’re going to make a difference in the health of the population here that we care so much about.” 

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