Challenged by Change


By Cori Smelker
Photo by: Leonel Munoz

When Dr. Dagoberto Martinez first moved to Brownsville he embraced the people, the place and the culture. That is what has propelled him forward for the past 30 years and will continue to propel him for years to come.Dr. Martinez completed his residency in Obstetics and Gynecology at the University of West Virginia. In 1979, he joined the women’s healthcare group practice of Drs. Merrill and Peraglie in Brownsville.

In the mid century, until the 1980s, childbirth in the US was treated far differently from the way it is today. Dr. Martinez was instrumental in making changes in the management of labor and delivery in the hospitals. At a time when fathers were banned from the birthing experience, and use of drugs was routine, he included the family in the entire pregnancy experience. As a direct result, the use of narcotics decreased and an increase of epidural anesthesia allowed maternal participation in childbirth. He also introduced new technology to the practice and began laparoscopic gynecologic surgery in the hospitals. This allows for minimally invasive procedures reducing hospital stay and earlier recovery.

In 1982, Mary Ann Fore, Advanced Nurse Practitioner, Certified Nurse Midwife, joined Dr. Martinez in collaborative practice. Mary Ann, as known by her patients, a Valley native, and Dr. Martinez decided to create a model of healthcare delivery that would provide quality, accessible, comprehensive and coordinated care to women. Every clinic promises to provide that kind of care to its patients, so what sets Clinica Santa Maria apart?

Dr. Martinez believes it is a combination of factors. “First of all, we have an incredible staff,” he says. It is telling that many of the staff has been with the clinic for 16 years longer. Mary Ann agrees and goes on to say, “We try to be proactive, anticipating changes in healthcare delivery for women.”

The concept for Clinica Santa Maria as a collaborative practice model began with the opening of the first of its current three clinic locations in Los Ebanos on November 8, 1982. In 1990 the need for a second clinic became evident, and Lakeview was founded.

The third clinic based in the Southmost area was created out of necessity. Dr. Martinez realized many of his pregnant patients were travelling with their toddlers on several buses for their appointments. He recognized the need, and stated, “It’s difficult being pregnant, tired, and facing a long series of bus rides with a toddler in tow, to keep appoints for prenatal care.” This clinic has helped improve access to care and better serve Brownsville’s growing population especially in underserved communities.

Clinica Santa Maria provides a state-of-the-art Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certified laboratory, American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM) accredited ultrasonography, advanced nurse practitioners and doctors who really do care about their patients. Because Clinica Santa Maria is built on a model of collaboration, the patients have access to OB/GYN Physicians, Certified Nurse Midwife and Women’s Healthcare Advanced Nurse Practitioners. This means if one doctor or provider is more qualified than another in a specific field, the patient will get full access to the expert as well as education and preventative services. Another plus to this model is continuity of care and after hours coverage, which is definitely important in the world of obstetrics where babies have a mind of their own and are known for the 1:00am arrivals.

Another advantage of the clinic is the wide range of services offered right in-house. Mary Ann explains, “We want to ensure our patients get all the treatment they need right here, without having to travel to other locations and waste their time.” So the clinics have on-site CLIA certified lab testing, AIUM accredited ultrasound, in-house surgery (Abnormal Pap-Colposcopy, Abnormal Bleeding-Hysteroscopy (Endometrial Ablation), and also offer sterilization by using ESSURE.

The clinic provides Preventive Well Women Care including health, nutrition and wellness counseling. Dr. Martinez sees this an extremely important component of the clinic, especially now with the future of health care in transition.

A number of outside factors will affect healthcare in the future that much the staff at Clinica Santa Maria acknowledges. No one is exactly sure how profound those changes will be. Being an optimist, Dr. Martinez believes one aspect of the Affordable Heath Care Act is the heightened awareness that people need to take better care of themselves. “But that is an area where we already stand out, “ Dr. Martinez says proudly. “We educate our mothers and mothers-to-be on the importance of a healthy lifestyle, of birth control, of breast self examination, of their pap smear and other aspects of wellness.”

Dr. Martinez has delivered over 10,000 babies in the past 30 years and Clinica Santa Maria as a group remains the largest provider of obstetrical deliveries and state of the art gynecologic care in Brownsville. Clinica Santa Maria’s four OB/GYN physicians and three Advanced Practice Nurses are continuing to be with Mothers and now their daughters and sons who are delivering their 2nd and 3rd generations with the clinics.

“We are challenged by change,” Dr. Martinez concludes. “We are completely involved and committed to the community. We have a proven track record and are confident in the future of women’s healthcare in Brownsville.

Clinica Santa Maria is ready and willing to accept the challenges of building a better healthcare system for the 21st century.