Dr. Nolan Perez has been serving the community as a gastroenterologist (GI) since 2007. In this time he has grown his practice, Texas Digestive Specialists (formerly Gastroenterology of South Texas). The practice first opened in Harlingen and has since expanded to Brownsville; there are now plans to expand to the upper Rio Grande Valley.
The comprehensive group is made up of 12 doctors and 13 advanced care practitioners who see pediatric and adult patients and perform both routine visits and surgeries. The most common surgical procedures at Texas Digestive Specialists are colorectal and bariatric surgeries.
“We saw that a lot of our patients needed the help of a surgeon, and we wanted to provide the highest quality of care to our patients,” Dr. Perez said. “We found it worked best to integrate our practice with surgeons.”
Dr. Perez takes pride in serving his community and providing valuable and quality care, always striving toward providing the highest level of care to his patients in a timely manner — especially important in a region underserved, not just in terms of GI specialists, but in overall healthcare.
“Texas, in general, ranks 48th per capita out of the number of physicians in the United States,” Dr. Perez explained. “There are only two other states worse than us. Furthermore, the RGV is even worse in the number of physicians per 100,000 people.”
This lack of care means the growing community is grossly underserved. Patients often face delayed care and become hospitalized due to not receiving timely treatment, or must seek medical care outside of the area.
Dr. Perez is working towards changing that. He does not just serve as a physician; he has also dedicated his time and efforts to volunteering on various boards. He serves on local and state boards to improve the healthcare system and believes those changes happen through education.
“I would not be a physician today if it were not for a teacher,” he said. “An educator is the most noble profession and makes all other professions possible.”
Dr. Perez recalls it was his high school chemistry teacher who helped guide him toward figuring out his career path. He took his teacher’s advice to heart. After returning from serving in the U.S. Navy as a physician, he completed his residency and GI fellowship and opened his private practice in Harlingen.
“I was profoundly impacted by my mentors and decided that I wanted to also help mentor students,” he said.
It was during that time that Dr. Perez began his public service in education. In 2010, he was asked to serve on the Harlingen CISD board of directors. Since then, he has served as president of the HCISD board for two terms, during one of which (in 2019) the board received Board of the Year by the Texas Association of School Boards. He has been involved in building specialty schools that are higher education focused, improving literacy programs and early childhood education, and developing important partnerships with higher education. Those partnerships have led him to become involved at the state level.
He currently serves with the Holdsworth Center, an organization that helps support public education leadership and works towards strengthening leaders in public education. In 2015, he was appointed by Governor Abbott to Texas Woman’s University Board of Regents, then appointed to University of Texas System Board of Regents in 2019, then reappointed to UTS BOR for a six-year term in 2021.
In these roles, he has learned how to better adapt his business to meet the needs of the community and, in turn, find ways to improve education to open more opportunities for the Valley’s talented students. He believes in educating students to strengthen and meet the needs of our workforce.
Working as a team on various boards, Dr. Perez has made great strides and is seeing the great opportunities being afforded to students through the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s many programs and affordable tuition. He added that he hires many advanced care practitioners who have graduated from UTRGV and other UT-system schools.
“I am really proud that UTRGV has made education so attainable,” he said. “We see what they have done with schools like UTRGV Harlingen Collegiate High — this is a university campus embedded in a school district.
“We will continue providing opportunities connecting learning to employability in order to change the lives of these students and increase their quality of life.”
Dr. Perez attributes his successes in the betterment of the community and growing his business to more than 30 medical providers and 100 employees to his support system. His wife Sandy Nolan helps him run their business and their two children, Nolan Jr. and Natalie, are both following in their dad’s footsteps and attending UT Austin.
“I have spent a great deal of time away from my family to serve on these boards, but I am proud to give back and very proud to help provide opportunities to this region through my services” he said. “I am blessed to work on these teams and serve in this way.”