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THECB awards UTRGV School of Medicine $250,000 to plan neurology medical residency

Dr. Gabriel A. de Erausquin, M.D., Ph.D., M.Sc., is a leading researcher in neuroscience and psychiatric illnesses and founding chair of the UTRGV School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and Neurology. (UTRGV Photo by Paul Chouy)

By Jennifer L. Berghom

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – SEPT. 19, 2016 – The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has given The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine a $250,000 grant to begin planning a neurology medical residency program.

If approved, the program should begin in two to three years and accept 10 residents per year – five of whom will serve in Hidalgo County and five of whom will serve in Cameron County – for a total of 40 residents. A complete neurology residency requires 48 months of education, one year with clinical experiences in internal medicine and three in neurology education.
Dr. Gabriel de Erausquin, UTRGV professor of psychiatry and neurology who applied for the grant, said the money will be used to hire a director and key faculty members — who specialize in areas that are not represented in the Valley yet — for the residency program. 

“The residency will bring the faculty, and that will bring the subspecialties here,” he said. “It will create the opportunity for those to stay and practice. Sixty to 70 percent of the residents stay where they train, so we hope of those 10 residents we train, six or seven will end up staying in the Valley practicing which, over time, will make a huge impact in terms of how we do care.”

Starting a medical residency program in neurology is unlike other residency programs because it has to include at least a handful of the many subspecialties that fall under neurology, according to de Erausquin.

Some subspecialties include epilepsy, vascular neurology, neuro-ophthalmology, neuro-oncology, hospice and palliative medicine, and pain medicine.

“Neurology, unlike many other residencies, has really strict requirements for training with people who have specific skills, and that’s usually classified within subspecialty categories,” he said.

The residency program will also address the shortage of specialists in the Rio Grande Valley, de Erausquin added.

Currently, patients must travel to Corpus Christi, Houston or San Antonio to see a subspecialist in various areas of neurology to receive care, he said.

“(For) epilepsy we have a little support from San Antonio, a doctor from San Antonio comes down once a month … to see patients here, but there are no permanent programs here,” he said. “The same is true for disorders, the same is true for … everything, so anything we build is going to be new to the Valley. It’s an incredible need, actually.”

“Of course, there are some general neurologists here that do as good a job as you can do through the restrictions, but they can’t possibly cover the need that there has to be in the population because these are really difficult disorders,” he added.

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