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FEATURED, FROM LEFT: McAllen natives and brothers Dr. Macaulay Ojeaga and Dr. Patrick Ojeaga posed together on Saturday, May 8, 2021, on the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Brownsville Campus, during their graduation from the UTRGV School of Medicine. Patrick is now a resident physician at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, and Macaulay is now at the University of Kansas School of Medicine.

FEATURED, FROM LEFT: McAllen natives and brothers Dr. Macaulay Ojeaga and Dr. Patrick Ojeaga posed together on Saturday, May 8, 2021, on the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Brownsville Campus, during their graduation from the UTRGV School of Medicine. Patrick is now a resident physician at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, and Macaulay is now at the University of Kansas School of Medicine.

Photograph By DAVID PIKE


Dr. Patrick Ojeaga, former University of Texas Rio Grande Valley medical school graduate, former UT System student regent, and a Rio Grande Valley native, reflects on learning experiences


Just one year ago, Dr. Patrick Ojeaga was a medical student at the UTRGV School of Medicine, anxiously waiting to know what residency program he would match.

Today, the McAllen native is a resident physician at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, pursuing a medical career as an orthopedic surgeon.

A resident is a physician who has already received his/her medical degree, and is completing additional training in his/her specialty of choice. Residency is a stage of graduate medical training and can vary anywhere between three to seven years, depending on the specialty. A resident is under continuous supervision by the attending physician, who has already completed his/her own residency training program

“UTRGV was an incredible time in my life,” Ojeaga reflected. “I had a phenomenal experience there and met some of the most important people in my life. I feel like the medical program did a fantastic job preparing me for this residency – through medical knowledge, clinical skills and clinical experience. UTRGV was a fantastic experience.”

Ojeaga, a formerUT System Student Regent, is from a family of health professionals – including his brother, Macaulay Ojeaga, who is now a resident physician at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, doing his otolaryngology residency. They kept it in the family, attending The UTRGV School of Medicine together and graduating together in the Class of 2021.


Each year, the UTRGV School of Medicine admits 50 students to each entering class, so medical school experiences can vary greatly, he said.

At UTRGV, with smaller class sizes, instruction opportunities are much more personalized. That doesn’t happen at all medical schools across the country where programs tend to have more than 400 students per graduating class, he said, so one-on-one communication with faculty can be very difficult.

The UTRGV School of Medicine Class of 2021 was extremely cohesive, he said, and he was grateful for the camaraderie.

“I feel like we were a tight-knit group. Our faculty and staff were a part of the small family that we have at UTRGV,” Ojeaga said. “Everyone was very supportive and welcoming. The faculty had an open-door policy. So, we were welcome to come in anytime if we needed something or further explanation or instruction, which is incredibly valuable.”


Also, of great value for Ojeaga was UTRGV’s location in the Rio Grande Valley.

As a Valley native, it was important for him to be close to home and family as he continued along his journey. Because it is located at the southernmost tip of Texas, the UTRGV School of Medicine taps into the multifaceted uniqueness of its proximity to Mexico and, according to Ojeaga, lends itself to serving and treating diverse communities.


Because of its unique location, the UTRGV medical school creates opportunities to help underserved patients, which appeals to medical students.

“The School of Medicine’s diversity is incredible. I don’t know of another medical school in the country with diversity such as ours,” Ojeaga said. “We had students from all sorts of backgrounds, communities, and from all over the country.”

UTRGV School of Medicine’s Class of 2021 student demographics prove out its cultural diversity:

• There were 28 male students to 22 female students;
• 13 percent of them were Asian/Indian;
• 18 percent were African American;
• 22 percent were Caucasian; and
• 47 percent Hispanic.

According to the , the national average for medical school graduates by race and ethnicity across the nation in 2018-2019 were 21.6 percent Asian/Indian, 6.2 percent African American, 54.6 percent Caucasian and 5.3 percent Hispanic.


In an effort to provide future medical students with even more opportunities for success, UTRGV has established a series of pipeline programs designed to recruit and retain a diverse group of medical students.

Through programs like the joint admissions medical program and pre jamp, Vaqueros MD, and the UTRGV SOM Early Decision Program, the university emphasizes attracting the best and brightest from the Rio Grande Valley and well beyond.

Dr. Michael B. Hocker, Dean, UTRGV School of Medicine and Senior Vice President, UT Health RGV, said programs like these are instrumental in making medical school, and careers in medicine, accessible to all, especially for historically underrepresented communities like the Valley.

“High school and college students from South Texas now have an excellent path to become future physicians through admission and completion of early decision programs like Vaqueros MD,” Hocker said. “You don’t have to be one of 7,000 applicants. These programs help diverse, talented, aspiring physicians reach their goals close to home.”

Hocker also said creating more opportunities for Valley students can help entice more diverse student populations to apply.

“These programs are about creating diversity and training the best medical students, so they will be success stories like Dr. Ojeaga and many of our other outstanding graduates,” Hocker said. “These programs were created to make medical school and medical career pathways accessible to all.”


Ojeaga believes that diversity taps into the future of medicine – into the training of a highly diverse group of medical students and future physicians to serve a diverse patient population and the varied clinical settings and approaches needed.

“I believe UTRGV is at the forefront of medical education in our country because of its emphasis on serving our community and recruiting diverse medical students to attend our medical school,” he said. “That all contributes to innovation, to high-quality, patient-centered care.”

The orthopedic resident says he is thankful for his time at the UTRGV School of Medicine.

“Residency has been great. Being an intern is a wild experience – it’s like drinking through a firehose,” he said with a smile. “As I learn how to be a doctor, I see the amazing job UTRGV did in teaching me and my classmates how to be great clinicians.”

For more information on the UTRGV School of Medicine or about pipeline programs in South Texas, visit the UTRGV SOM Diversity Programs: Student Pipeline Programs website.


The Breast Center of Excellence at DHR Health and the Cancer Research Center at DHR Health Institute for Research and Development have been selected to lead an innovative breast cancer study – WISDOM (Women Informed to Screen Depending on Measure of risk).

The overall study is funded by the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute and the National Cancer Institute and local funding will support the DHR Health launch under the direction of Dr. Lisa Chapa, a board-certified surgeon and breast cancer oncologist at DHR Health.

This study aims to recruit women of diverse backgrounds across the entire State of Texas.

“Despite advances in the past three decades, breast cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer deaths for women in the United States,” said Chapa, Director, DHR Health Breast Center of Excellence. “The incidence of breast cancer in women of Hispanic ethnicity is higher than in general population, and it is vital to involve minorities in this trailblazing longitudinal study. We are pleased that we will be working with the WISDOM team of investigators and community groups to offer this opportunity that we are the sole site, and will be offering this opportunity to all women in the State of Texas.”

“Having a standard for risk assessment with tailored screening recommendations for all women will be an important step forward in reducing these cancer disparities,” said Sohail Rao, MD, MA, DPhil, president and Chief Executive Officer, DHR Health Institute for Research & Development.

“To maximize the impact of this clinical study and to benefit all women in the State of Texas, we will be seeking funding from the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) in the Prevention and Early Detection program.”

“Most women spend 30 to 35 years getting breast screenings,” said Laura Esserman, MD, a University of California San Francisco professor of surgery and radiology and the national principal investigator of this study. “So, we recommend that women in Texas join the WISDOM study and spend the next five years helping us create a better future where we can learn how best to target both screening and prevention. Now, more than ever it’s important for women to understand their personal risk and to know how often they should screen.”

To join this landmark study, please visit: JOIN WISDOM STUDY or call (956)362-2367 or email [email protected].

About DHR Health Institute for Research & Development

DHR Health Institute for Research & Development, is a nonprofit organized under the Federal Internal Revenue Service Code 501(c)(3).

As the largest and the most comprehensive entity conducting translational and clinical research in South Texas, DHR Health Institute for Research and Development leads the way in bringing innovative, state-of-the-art advanced treatment options for its patients in the community.

DHR Health Institute for Research and Development provides oversight of translational and clinical research at DHR Health, DHR Health Brownsville, Starr County Memorial Hospital, and in 70 clinics under Renaissance Medical Foundation.

To learn more, visit this website at


Village in the Valley (ViVa) will be hosting the 2nd Annual Juneteenth Perfecting Unity Celebration from 6 pm to 10 pm on Saturday, June 11, 2022, at the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel McAllen.

The Double Tree Suites by Hilton Hotel McAllen is located at 1800 South 2nd Street.

Observing the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of slavery’s end in the United States, guests will enjoy an evening of music, food, beverages, and a live auction, as area residents celebrate what Juneteenth means to ViVa – Perfecting Unity.

Adding to the celebration will be a keynote presentation by Dr. Francisco Guajardo, CEO, Museum of South Texas History, sharing the Rio Grande Valley connection with the Underground Railroad that came through South Texas.

The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses established in the United States during the early-to mid-19th century. It was used by enslaved African Americans primarily to escape into free states and Canada. The network was assisted by abolitionists and others sympathetic to the cause of the escapees.

The enslaved who risked escape and those who aided them are also collectively referred to as the “Underground Railroad”.

Various other routes led to Mexico, where slavery had been abolished, and to islands in the Caribbean that were not part of the slave trade.

Guajardo was raised on both sides of the border, attended public schools in the rural community of Edcouch-Elsa in the Rio Grande Valley, and became an educator. He earned a B.A. in English, an M.A. in History and an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in History, Curriculum & Instruction, and Educational Administration from University of Texas at Austin.

He began his career as a high school teacher before becoming a university professor and then administrator. Guajardo has co-authored three books and more than 70 articles on topics that include history of education, community leadership, organizational development, Latino epistemologies.

In Fall 2019, he became the Chief Executive Officer of the Museum of South Texas History in Edinburg.

For individuals or groups who wish to join in the celebration, tickets are $50 for ViVa members and $100 for nonmembers. A limited number of tables are available for $1250 (seats 8). Tickets and sponsorships can be purchased by visiting

The funds raised will allow ViVa to continue to provide scholarships and vital support to the community through such program as the community closet which distributes clothing to those most in need. Annually, these donations will be applied to the areas of greatest need.

The Mission of ViVa is elevating and uniting the Black community while connecting to other cultures in the Rio Grande Valley.


Marcy Martínez and Sabrina Walker Hernández contributed to this article. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (

Titans of the Texas Legislature

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