Tuesday, April 13, 2021

By Dimitra Trejo

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – After a year of COVID-19 testing operations, UT Health RGV has administered more than 100,000 COVID-19 tests.  

UT Health RGV administered its 100,000th test to UTRGV nursing student Kevin Perez.  

Perez, who is slated to graduate in May with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, said he has been tested for COVID-19 with UT Health RGV to keep himself and his family safe.  

“As a nursing student, I decided to volunteer at the UT Health RGV vaccine clinics to gain experience and help out my community during this difficult time,” he said. “I had to make sure I was safe and that I was doing what I could to keep my family safe, as well.” 

Perez said he decided to enter the medical field because he was passionate about helping others. Since the pandemic, however, he has experienced new levels of dedication as a healthcare professional.  

“People will never truly understand the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual fortitude it takes to be a healthcare worker in a time of crisis like this one,” Perez said. “You have days when you’re exhausted, but you still sacrifice a small part of yourself with every patient you tend to. You stretch yourself as far as you can, just so you can give someone else an extra bit of comfort when they need it the most.”  

Volunteering his time at the UT Health RGV vaccine clinics has been of great benefit to helping his community, he said, but the health of his own family was always on his mind.  

“I chose to help at the clinics because I know what’s at stake, people’s lives and their health are at stake,” he said. “If we can vaccinate thousands of people in one week, that’s a good week.  

“Still, I knew that being involved in vaccinating meant making sure I was doing what I needed to keep myself and those around me safe from the virus. I’m terrified of catching another strain of COVID later – that’s why getting tested with UT Health RGV was important to me.”

As the 100,000th patient to receive a COVID-19 test through UT Health RGV, Perez also got his test results through the UT Health RGV Clinical Laboratory.  

Dr. John Thomas, director of the laboratory, said meeting the demand for rapid PCR tests has been challenging, yet rewarding.  

“In April 2020, we embarked on providing rapid testing for SARS-CoV-2 to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Providing testing for more than 100,000 patients during the past 11 months, we have had an average turnaround time of 24 hours. And that has been significant in helping reduce viral transmission, tracking infected individuals, and allowing medical providers the ability to treat the infected and reduce overall mortality.”  

Thomas said the university’s team effort to help protect the Valley community during the pandemic has been critical. 

“I am extremely proud of all the efforts across multiple departments at the university and the School of Medicine,” Thomas said. 

UT Health RGV Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Dobbs also said reaching the 100,000th test can be credited to the commitment of healthcare providers at UTRGV.  

“In passing the milestone of 100,000 COVID-19 tests, I’m reminded of the extraordinary work of the UT Health RGV team to keep our community safe in a very challenging time,” he said. “It is evidence that we are keeping our promise to provide the region with advanced academic healthcare.”  

Perez, who said he plans to keep helping out at the UT Health RGV vaccine clinics, said getting tested has helped keep himself and his family safe.  

“These resources provided by UTRGV are invaluable to the community,” he said. “There are days I find myself in sheer awe of how long the vaccine lines are, but that speaks to hope for a better future.” 

To learn more about UT Health RGV’s COVID-19 testing or to request a free phone screening, visit uthealthrgv.org/covid19testing.


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.