Serving Where the Heart Is

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Rio Grande Valley general surgeon and gastrointestinal specialist Dr. Michael Martinez holds the Valley close to his heart. Even though he went east to pursue an Ivy League education, Martinez knew he wanted to return to serve.

The Yale Medical School graduate is a part of Texas Digestive Specialists.

“It was extremely important to me when I left. I always had the idea I was going to come back and be a part of the community here,” Martinez said. “I was born and raised in Edinburg, and my family has lived in the area for several generations. When I went away to school, I knew I wanted to bring those skills back here and be a part of the Valley moving forward. It’s grown in so many ways since I first left, but I knew it was on the upward trajectory in so many areas, especially in my particular area as far as health care.”

Growth in the Rio Grande Valley’s healthcare sector is hard to miss. The construction and accreditation of a medical school were a part of the catalyst to bringing all sorts of advancements in medical training and patient care.

“We have the medical school, several residency programs that have opened up, new hospitals, new advanced treatments are coming down to the Valley, and it’s just exciting to be a part of that,” Martinez said.

The advent of better healthcare options has a plethora of benefits for patients and their likelihood of recovery.

“The No. 1 reason that it’s important is it actually leads to better outcomes,” Martinez said. “If you have a patient that has a particularly complex disease or medical problem that’s able to stay home near their family, they don’t have to leave the immediate area around the state … they can get treatment sooner and don’t have to take time off of work or leave their support system. Those patients just do better in the long run. And that should be the goal of everyone who provides care; to find a way for patients to be more comfortable during the process without sacrificing the care. We don’t want them to stay in the Valley to get substandard treatment. People in the Valley deserve that just as much as the people in San Antonio, Dallas, or Houston.”

Martinez’s focus is what is known as the “foregut,” which is a specific part of the GI (gastrointestinal) tract that the small bile, stomach, and lower esophagus.

He said when it comes to preventing issues in these areas, of course, watching diet is a must, but also including physical activity to your routine is vital.

“One of the things that have changed in the Valley is there’s a lot of activity that didn’t used to exist,” Martinez said. “There are walking trails and bike trails. You can find groups of people doing something that you enjoy doing. People are roller skating or doing yoga. There’s no substitute for physical activity. There’s no medicine that you can take that will replace just going out and being active with your body.”

He also stressed that this doesn’t have to be a cost to the community. Many activities are available for free or low-cost.

“From a preventive standpoint, I would tell the entire community [to] just take advantage of the facilities we have now, and so many of them are free or low-cost,” Martinez said. “So it does not matter your financial or social situation. It should be possible to get out there.”

His last message to the community was the fact that getting into the medical field is a possibility for everyone, not only for doctors.

“I think it’s so important for people to realize how wonderful a place this is — how high the level of care can be here, especially from a healthcare standpoint and how many opportunities there are in the area,” Martinez said. “Sometimes people don’t see themselves as able to get into the medical field, or they think the medical field is only doctors, nurses, and surgeons. There are hundreds of positions that affect the daily health of people in the area.”

As the Valley advances and produces doctors and medical professionals of its own, we can only hope that many have the same positive attitude and willingness to serve the community to continue pushing the needle of health in the right direction.

Nathaniel Mata