‘I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders’


  Wednesday, January 6, 2021
  Community

By News and Internal Communications

Dr. Brandon Cantazaro, program director and assistant director of Internal Medicine at the UTRGV School of Medicine, received his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday and is among the first group of fully vaccinated people in the region. (UTRGV Photo by Paul Chouy)
Dr. Brandon Cantazaro, program director and assistant director of Internal Medicine at the UTRGV School of Medicine, received his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday and is among the first group of fully vaccinated people in the region. (UTRGV Photo by Paul Chouy)

By Dimitra Trejo

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – UTRGV’s Dr. Michelle Lopez, the first person to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the Rio Grande Valley back in December, today received her second dose and is among the first group of fully vaccinated people in the region.

Lopez, associate program director and assistant professor of Internal Medicine at the UTRGV School of Medicine, said she feels she has come full circle.

“I feel like I have closed the loop on one of the chapters in my life,” she said. “And as the weeks go by, I will feel even more protected by the vaccine. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”

Lopez was among the university’s frontline medical personnel who were qualified to receive the first vaccine because of their heightened exposure to the virus.

Lopez says she feels more confident now in continuing her work with patients and coworkers.

“Every day was a gamble,” she said. “Now it feels less daunting interacting with my coworkers, less daunting treating my patients, knowing I’m keeping them safe, and less daunting coming home to my own family.”

Since the start of the first round of vaccine distribution, UTRGV has inoculated more than 4,400 people in those groups that qualified. And more than 2,000 this week alone will get the second of the required two shots.

“To be the first person in the RGV to receive the vaccine was a blessing,” Lopez said. “I was very emotional.”

Three other UTRGV medical providers also got the vaccine the day the Pfizer shots arrived –Dr. Brandon Cantazaro, Dr. Chelsea Chang and Dr. Arturo Suplee Rivera.

“The vaccine has brought an incredible amount of hope,” Cantazaro said. “It’s like a light at the end of the tunnel during a time when emotions are heavy from the impact of this deadly pandemic.

“Now that I’m fully vaccinated, I will continue to follow the CDC guidelines of social distancing, wearing the mask, and washing my hands frequently. I feel more confident seeing my patients, but we still need to remember we are in a second wave of the pandemic and we need to keep moving forward with caution.”

As the CDC designates additional groups to receive the vaccine, Lopez urges the community to take the vaccine.

“When you have the opportunity to get the vaccine, I encourage folks to do so,” she said. “This is the first step of being able to move on with our lives. It has been an honor to be part of history and I thank science and I thank UTRGV.

“I’ve seen so many lives lost due to this pandemic, so it is worth getting the shots. I hope folks will consider getting the vaccine when they can.”

For more information on UTRGV vaccination updates and information, visit https://www.utrgv.edu/coronavirus/commitment-safety-success/covid-19-vaccine/index.htm.



ABOUT UTRGV

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.