The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

UTRGV School of Medicine

“I got a feeling there’s a miracle due, gonna come true, coming to” … UTRGV!

– Stephen Sondheim, 1957
Song Lyrics to “Something’s Coming”
(‘RGV’ added by Dean Fernandez)

How many of you remember the 1957 Broadway musical West Side Story? It was a movie, too, which came out in 1961. This was the second movie I saw in the United States, and the first ever at Radio City Music Hall – an absolutely great movie to see in one of this country’s iconic venues, with fantastic music and this most amazing song with magnificently inspiring lyrics.

An added perk? It’s a great love story. A favorite in my wife’s collections of DVDs.

I am not sure what was most impressive at the time: being at Rockefeller Center, standing in line in frigid weather to get into Radio City Music Hall; wondering which of the heroines I was more in love with -- Natalie Wood or Rita Moreno; or afterwards, going to dinner at Tad’s Steakhouse (a 99 cent steak dinner!). All had tremendous “wow” factors.

Later, I learned from my mother, a pianist, that part of the musical’s “wow” factor was intended, through the use of the tritone – a musical interval made up of three adjacent whole tones – carried throughout masterful composer Leonard Bernstein’s pieces to stimulate one’s senses and emphasize tension.

What was there to be tense about? The difficulties of life in a new country, hate and violence in the community we lived in, and the complexities of prejudice? Plenty of tension there.

At the same time, it was about willpower, motivation, determination, strength and, of course, love. What an admixture! Those are the same feelings we are having right now with the arrival of our new residents, our first medical students, and our new clinical programs – a tritone of sorts.

“What is he saying … thinking?” you ask.

The UTRGV School of Medicine is about to set itself apart with a range of innovative programs and methods. Our approach to teaching and learning, to community outreach and commitment, is more than medical. It is designed to provide mental, medical and dental care – another tritone.

Like Tony and Maria, we are cutting ourselves loose from “the standard” and becoming part of the future of medical transformation in healthcare. How? By providing integrated care (medical, mental, and addictions care) in the “triply” diagnosed (those who are chronically ill, chemically dependent and psychiatrically ill) – all tritones.

Our team will be “multitones,” reflective of all the health professions. While you will not find multitones in a dictionary, my wife tells me it is a word for Scrabble, and in our house, that is all that counts. And how true that is – team collaborative care is what counts most in an underserved community like ours.

The Rio Grande Valley is a “newly-highly-diversely” positioned area (another tritone) and UTRGV is ready, as in West Side Story, to make of our hands, one hand, and make of our hearts, one heart.

As we say at the School of Medicine: One Community, One Mission, One Solution.