Located mid-Valley, in the small town of San Benito, the VHC Valley Health and Night Clinic embodies all the defining characteristics of a successful business. In taking the seemingly ordinary task of providing medical care, yet with a steadfast determination to do it better than just about anyone else, while instituting a personal, multi-faceted approach to modern medicine, the final product is something quite exceptional.
Dr. Israel Vega grew up in the town of Los Fresnos, the older of two children, in a family where faith played a central role in their everyday lives. Upon graduating from Los Fresnos High School, knowing he wanted to pursuit a career in medical field, he promptly enrolled at the University of Texas Brownsville Pre-pharmacy program, where he went on to obtain a bachelor’s degree in Biology. “Originally I was studying to become a pharmacist. I had finished up my pre-pharmacy and had begun work at Valley Regional Medical Center pharmacy department. It was during this time that I had the opportunity to interact with a lot of nurses there, and decided to make that career change. I got into nursing, really enjoyed it and never looked back” explains Dr. Vega. With a desire to continue serving the South Texas region, Dr. Vega then went on to earn a Master’s of Science Degree as a Family Nurse Practitioner from Texas A&M Corpus Christi, and then eventually a Doctorate degree from Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth.
Although the clinic has only been in operation since 2010, it has quickly earned a positive reputation among patients, patients which in 2014 nominated Dr. Vega as Best Family Doctor for the Valley Morning Star. “I was actually pretty amazed, surprised, and excited about it. It was really humbling to know that my patients thought of me and voted, as a nursing practitioner actually winning this award means a lot” Dr. Vega recalls. The victory was especially sweet for Dr. Vega, who has built his career on the principle of superior customer service and dispelling any preconceived notions about the critical role that Nurse Practitioners play in the medical field he explains. “As an NP, I constantly have to prove myself to a lot of the medical doctors, that we as nurse practitioners do provide a high standard of care.” For Dr. Vega, part of fulfilling that commitment involves staying on top of the latest medical advances and procedures. “I try to stay 10 steps ahead of the game, always on top of my studying the newest and most groundbreaking research” he assures.
Increased access to medical care in recent years has created a demand that cannot be fulfilled solely by traditional physicians. These days the majority of patients who walk into a traditional doctor’s office will more than likely be treated exclusively by a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant. This shift has led to a revival of medical philosophy once spurned, deemed impractical for our modern world, a view that Dr. Vega adamantly rejects: “As practitioners, we not only do the standard disease-and-treatment, but we also incorporate that full treatment by taking into consideration the patient’s culture, community, family, and daily life. We teach patients how to stay healthy. We teach people about their illnesses. We basically take a different approach towards getting them stabilized.” For patients the potential benefits are obvious, including the need for fewer visits and less-invasive treatment.
As Dr. Vega works to improve the health of his patients he undergoes a collaborative experience with local physicians, hospitals, and even pharmacies where patients can have their medications compounded. In recent years he has become passionate about being able to provide hormone replacement therapy, as well as anti-aging and regenerative procedures, out of his own clinic. As Dr. Vega explains it, “this type of medical approach ensures that the emphasis be more than just improving health but instead seeking the improvement of longevity.” Patients will often come into the clinic after experiencing long bouts of extreme fatigue, low-libido, and even depression. Once illness has been ruled out, the next logical step is a look at the possibility of hormone depletion, which determined through a series of lab work, and even salivary hormone testing.
As humans age, the body undergoes a series of internal changes, as hormone levels fluctuate causing a disturbance in some people. Dr. Vega has witnessed how with hormone replacement therapy, patients find themselves experiencing increased energy. “Both husbands and wives come together for their hormone replacement therapy and are excited about how it’s making them feel, so they’re feeling a lot better, they’re feeling more energetic” notes Dr. Vega. He admits it’s a lengthy process that involves piecing together a multitude of lifestyle factors, in order to form a complete image that will lead to an effective solution. It’s a seemingly natural fit for a clinic that prides itself on providing exceptional comprehensive care.
Although the clinic is equipped to handle a large variety of illnesses, some of the most common ailments that patients suffer from are the direct result of diabetes and high blood pressure. Lifestyle factors, genetic predisposition, and others factors play a significant role in making these preventable diseases so widespread in the Rio Grande Valley. Fortunately, Dr. Vega’s involvement with the community extends far beyond the walls of the clinic, participating in local health fairs and expos, an opportunity that allows for increased awareness and education. “We normally talk about disease prevention and diabetes prevention. With those that already have diabetes we talk about improving health, eating the right food, and exercise combined with taking their medication,” he says.
While Dr. Vega may be the driving force behind the standard of care provided at VHC Valley Health and Night Clinic, there is an entire crew that works diligently alongside him to make it possible. “Our staff provides me with 5-star quality service. They know how to incorporate what we are doing here in the clinic, talking to patients and overall just incorporating that vision. Everybody here is on the same page, they know what my position is, and that is to give my patients good service” he maintains. Part of fulfilling that commitment to patients is having the ability to look forward. In doing so, Dr. Vega has established some goals that include obtaining more knowledge in the field of anti-aging and regenerative medicine, and consequently being able to incorporate that knowledge into his patient’s treatment plan. For the next generation of RGV Nurse Practitioners, Dr. Vega has some sage advice: “besides studying hard, always maintain that people come first. Know that you’re there to provide an exceptional level of service for your clients, making sure that they’re taken care of.”
Some patients require that extra mile of care…literally. This is no problem for VHC Valley Health and Night Clinic which remains one of the few local clinics that provide the option of traditional house calls. For Dr. Vega it’s where the “black bag” meets the iPad, and where he experiences the previously unimaginable convenience of ordering prescriptions online as he examines patients. It can be difficult for older residents living in the largely rural, central Valley to make their way to the clinic, so the clinic comes to them, “my waiting room is your living room,” jokes Dr. Vega. Aside from convenience, the house calls represent an added layer to the holistic approach taken by Dr. Vega. “It shows me how patients are in their home and what environmental factors are affecting them in their health.” At times medicine may be found to be out of reach for an elderly patient, there may be no access to running water, or even a refrigerator to store insulin. With this knowledge Dr. Vega can then begin to focus on finding the resources that will remedy the situation.
Perhaps just as importantly as the knowledge Dr. Vega imparts on his patients is the wisdom that he’s obtained from his years spent with them. “I’ve learned to be a little bit more hospitable and caring. The patients here and the people of the Rio Grande Valley are just outstanding. Everybody is so nice and loving to one another. There’s a very family-oriented atmosphere, and that’s what I have learned most about being family.”