McALLEN – The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) hosted a ribbon cutting to mark the beginning of a primary care clinic in partnership with Hidalgo County.

As one of the most under served medical regions in the country the collaboration between UTRGV and Hidalgo County will help bring the much needed medical care to the region.

“We all know the importance to having access to excellent healthcare and unfortunately the Rio Grande Valley is a region with unmet medical needs,” UTRGV President Dr. Guy Bailey said. “There's a low ratio of medical providers to patients and is one of the most medically underserved regions in the United States so that's why we're so excited.”

A journey five years in the making that began with Dr. Maria I. Diaz, associate professor of nursing and the project's director, the goal will be to provide primary healthcare services to residents of Hidalgo County.

The UTRGV Community Primary Care Clinics will be funded by a three-year $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration. There will be two clinics where the College of Health Affairs and School of Nursing will operate two clinics four days a week. The time will be split by the clinic located at 300 E. Hackberry Ave. and one in Harlingen.

The purpose of the grant is to provide students in the health disciplines the opportunity to get hands-on training in an interprofessional model of providing care.

Hidalgo County Health & Human Services Chief Administration Officer Eddie Olivarez remembers the beginning stages of applying for the grant with Diaz. Olivarez said the primary care clinic is a small part in the role UTRGV is going to play in providing world class healthcare and developing the future for better medicine for primary care.

There are eight clinics that see 66,000 patients a year in Hidalgo County. Olivarez said the clinic on Hackberry will be the main stop for healthcare to those who need it but he hopes he can expand services to another clinic sooner than later.

“The care and well being of the residents of Hidalgo County, Cameron County and throughout South Texas is the ultimate goal,” he said. “The ultimate goal is to demonstrate to the rest of the world we will no longer be the first in all the bad things like diabetes and obesity, within five years with this partnership we will be in the top five of success in the healthiest community.”