When women in the Rio Grande Valley think of women’s health, the first place that comes to mind is Harlingen Obstetrics and Gynecology (HOGA). The reasons are manifold, but begin with the doctors themselves. Dr. Uvaldo Cantu and Dr. Ruben Torres have been an integral part of the practice for 24 years and 18 years respectively. Midwife Nivia Nieves Fisch has been working with women for the past 30 years. The only relative newbie is midwife Joanna Imperial, and she’s been with HOGA for 5 years! It’s that longevity and security that the patients seek.
Not only do the two doctors practice in Harlingen, they also have offices in Weslaco and Brownsville. They also work at Su Clinicia Familiar, a clinic that provides health services to people in Cameron and Willacy counties. “We are busy,” Cantu chuckles, “but we would not have it any other way. We are doing what we love, and we provide a valuable service to our community.”
Community is the watchword for both doctors who are both Valley born and raised. “We are Valley-ites,” says Cantu. Once their medical training was complete they both made a conscious decision to return to their hometown and practice medicine and raise their families in the Valley, just as their families have been doing for over 200 years. “Our patients appreciate that. They know we could have upped stakes and moved anywhere we wanted; but they know we are rooted in our community and that goes a long way to building trust.” They have certainly earned that trust and that can be seen in the demographic of their patients. “Babies we delivered 20 or 30 years ago are now returning to us to deliver their babies,” Cantu explains.
HOGA offers comprehensive care, following women through all stages of life. They provide adolescent gynecological care, family planning, primary care, annual examinations, deliveries and everything in between. In some ways Cantu and his staff feel that they are counselors, not just doctors. Patients open up and talk about issues that bother them, medical and emotional. Cantu says because of the area they serve they do deal with many high-risk pregnancies including hypertension, gestational diabetes, and obesity. Cantu and Torres are experts in the field of gestational diabetes after completing special training at the Einstein College of Medicine. “Einstein is the Mecca of gestational diabetes treatment,” Cantu says, “so we returned to the Valley armed with knowledge that has a direct and positive effect on our patients.”
The midwives, Fisch and Imperial, are essential members of the team; seeing patients at visits, delivering babies, teaching family planning, breastfeeding, and good nutrition. Say Cantu, “We could not run this office without these two incredible women.” He believes they are one of the reasons the c-section rate for their practice is way below the national average even though they are above the national average in high-risk patients. C-sections rates in the USA are currently around 25%, theirs is 13-15%, a figure of which the doctors are rightly proud.
Dr. Cantu confesses he loves obstetrics and gynecology for its multi-disciplinary approach. “I get to be a primary care physician, I do office visits, perform surgery and then get to deliver babies. My job, for the most part, is very positive and most of the time we see good outcomes.” Of course there are tragedies — the miscarriages, the stillbirths, and infertility struggles of some patients, but at the end of the day there is nothing Cantu or Torres would rather be doing. They make a great team because there is a mutual respect and they both have the same goals when it comes to patient care. “Our slogan is ‘Women’s Health — its our priority’, and we keep that in the forefront of our minds when we are with our patients,” Cantu says.
Not only is HOGA one of the most-established practices in the region, it is also one of the most forward-thinking. Many procedures that used to require general anesthesia can now be done in-office and with conscious sedation. Dilation and Curettage (D&C), hysteroscopy, uterine endometrial ablation, tubal ligation, LEEP Conizations (used to treat cervical cancer) can all be done in-house using conscious sedation. This lowers the risk to the patients, and shortens recovery time. HOGA is one of the few practices in the Valley, let alone South Texas to offer these in-house services.
Neither of these doctors can see themselves slowing down any time soon, and for that their patients are grateful. Between all the practices they run and clinics they work from, it is a wonder they find time for anything else. But they both have children and are heavily invested in their family lives. Dr. Cantu has even found time to be a Boy Scout leader, and in fact just completed a 4-year terms as President of the Rio Grande Boy Scout Council. Dr. Torres sits on the medical board of the Tropical Texas Behavioral Health.
It is indeed rare to find doctors who love and honor their patients — Drs. Torres and Cantu are those rare jewels — men who have taken their love of medicine, integrated it with their work ethic and offer the polished results to their patients.