Wednesday, May 20, 2020

By News and Internal Communications

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – The UTRGV School of Medicine’s Department of Population Health & Biostatistics is working across UTRGV departments to connect community partners in need with solutions during this COVID-19 pandemic. 

Dr. Jay Morrow, associate dean of Clinical and Translational Research and chair of the Department of Population Health & Biostatistics at the School of Medicine, leads this collaboration between the UTRGV Theatre Department and the School of Medicine to provide PPE to community safety net clinics in the region. 

This is part of a new broad initiative called “COVID Minds at Work,” led by Dr. Jose Campo Maldonado, infectious disease expert and assistant professor of Internal Medicine at the UTRGV School of Medicine. The initiative began among several UTRGV schools and colleges in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“This group formed organically as departments across UTRGV heard about each other’s work in response to COVID-19, and has now joined forces to collaborate on innovative, scientific solutions to directly impact the health of the RGV community and contribute to our regional response,” Morrow said. 

Through this inter-departmental work group, Morrow was able to alert area safety net clinics of the availability of PPE made by the UTRGV Theatre Department. Elizabeth Polley, costume shop manager for the UTRGV Theatre Department, and her staff constructed the gowns, masks, and face shields in their workshop that would allow the clinical staff to continue providing healthcare to underserved citizens in the region. 

“I hope donations to the clinics will help the medical personnel be able to perform their jobs safely and know that they have the support of all of us here at UTRGV,” Polley said. “I also hope it will help the community get the medical care they need during this extremely difficult situation. I’m honored to be a part of this project and thankful for the support of the theatre department and everyone at UTRGV as we do what we can to help battle the pandemic.”

The UTRGV School of Medicine’s Population Health & Biostatics Department has a standing working group with RGV safety net clinic partners, including Nuestra Clinica del Valle, Rio Grande State Center, Brownsville Community Health Center, Hope Family Health Center, Su Clinica Harlingen, UTRGV’s School of Medicine AHEC Clinics, and El Milagro Clinic. 

These RGV safety net clinics provide healthcare services to underserved and uninsured community members.  

Marisol Resendez, executive director of El Milagro Clinic, said the donated PPE equipment will help her staff keep running during this pandemic. 

“This donation of PPE equipment is so important to our staff,” she said. “It comes in handy because we do have to make sure that everybody – all of our providers and staff – are well protected so we can do our jobs without spreading the virus.”

The COVID Minds at Work group also has been able to partner with Hope Family Health Center, a nonprofit safety net clinic in the Valley, to distribute 125 plastic gowns, 50 face shields and 30 cloth cover masks for doctors, staff and patients. 

Morrow said the plan is to continue these collaborations as long as needed.

“We are all in this together,” he said. “UTRGV’s mission is to improve the health of all people in the region through direct clinical services, and through community engagement and partnerships. I’m proud we’re finding innovative ways to serve and support the population of the region through our UTRGV COVID Minds at Work efforts.” 


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.