FEATURED, FROM LEFT: Roberto Haddad, Vice President, Counsel for Government Affairs and Policy, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance; Roxanne Ramírez, LCSW-S, Executive Director, Hope Family Health Center; and Dr. Alberto Gutiérrez, Medical Director, Hope Family Health Center. This image was taken on Sunday, December 18, 2022.
Photograph By BREANNA LEE BANDA
Dr. Alberto Gutiérrez, affiliated with DHR Health Hospice, and Medical Director for Hope Family Health Center, honored by Futuro RGV for his legacy of providing medical care for the needy
DAVID A. DÍAZ
In most cases, the figure of speech, “One in a million”, is an exaggeration and not reality when talking about a person, object or action.
But not so for Dr. Alberto Gutiérrez, a Rio Grande City native who with his wife Clare, RN, a retired Registered Nurse, live in McAllen.
Dr. Alberto Gutiérrez, affiliated with DHR Health Hospice and Hope Family Health Center, was recently honored by Futuro RGV for his legacy of providing medical care for more than one million patients – many of them poor, without health insurance, or vulnerable – during his distinguished career of more than five decades.
The Hope Family Health Center is a nonprofit charitable clinic that provides free, integrated medical and behavioral services to low-income and indigent residents of the Rio Grande Valley.
During his 54-year career as a family physician in California, New Mexico, and Texas, Dr. Gutiérrez has dedicated his life to taking care of the ill and injured, many of themindigent or with no where else to go for help.
Dr. Gutiérrez, 83, estimates he has treated more than one million patients – and still counting – during his 30 years in private practice in Carlsbad, New Mexico, followed by another 24 years since he returned back home to the Rio Grande Valley – with that last 15 years in deep South Texas serving as Medical Director for the Hope Family Health Center in McAllen.
“It’s been a good ride. I feel very blessed and honored to have all of you here tonight to wish me everything. I don’t know what else to say,” Dr. Gutiérrez said last fall at Futuro RGV’s public gathering, “Meet & Greet – recognizing an RGV Leader & Emerging Leaders”.
Futuro RGVis a group of citizen volunteers who present information and organize gatherings open to the public regarding issues and concerns vital to communities throughout the Rio Grande Valley.
Dr. Gutiérrez was honored as RGV Leader for 2022 by Futuro RGV, while Johanna Mora and José Delgado, students with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, and Sydney Ramón, a political science major at Texas A&M University, were recognized as Emerging Leaders.
“I am overwhelmed to have good friends and people who think so much of what I’ve done for the community,” he humbly expressed his appreciation during the event, which was held on Wednesday, October 19, 2022 at the Radisson Airport Hotel in McAllen.
What Dr. Gutiérrez has done over the decades has brought great honor upon himself, his family and his profession.
His life’s work in helping and healing a remarkable number of patients made him the ideal person to receive Futuro RGV’s public recognition, said Nedra Kinerk, President, Futuro RGV.
“When we discussed the person to be recognized in 2022, Dr. Alberto Gutiérrez was suggested. As we realized what a significant contribution Dr. Gutiérrez has made over the years to so many people, the choice was obvious,” she recalled. “Dr. Alberto Gutiérrez was the unanimous choice to be recognized and thanked for his long years of help and service to our Rio Grande Valley communities.”
Former McAllen Mayor Jim Darling – who is 2021 was chosen as RGV Leader – portrayed Dr. Gutiérrez as a person of great achievement who cares for others whenever and wherever possible.
“I’ve known Dr. Gutiérrez for a long time. I was DHR’s Chief Administrative Officer. I saw him in action, not only at Hope Family Health Center, but at DHR, and a lot of the great things that DHR did were because of Dr. Gutiérrez,” the former mayor said. “He doesn’t get credit for that – him and Clare – he never got credit for that. So it’s so great that you have credit, you deserve it, and you keep doing it, you’re not finished yet.”
As for Dr. Gutiérrez’ long and fulfilling life as a healer, “he is completing a journey of service through 50 years – it’s amazing,” Darling said. “You’ve inspired me and a lot of people in the area. I want to thank you. I saw you in action in a lot of things, never asked for credit, but he certainly deserved every bit of it.”
Dr. Gutiérrez is “the heart and soul of our clinic.”
Roxanne Ramírez, LCSW-S, Executive Director, Hope Family Health Center, McAllen, said Dr. Gutiérrez is an inspiration and role model for everyone who works with him.
“First of all, Dr. ‘G’ (Gutiérrez), you clearly are the heart and soul of our clinic. If any of you know about Hope Family Health Center, you know that the motor that drives this clinic is the love and the heart of this man,” she said. “I have the pleasure of seeing him, and he comes with such a joyful heart every single time that he comes into the clinic. The patients, they know when he is there, and they know as well when he’s not.”
Ramírez pointed out that the clinic staff was in attendance for the ceremony in his honor “because we rally behind him wherever it is where he goes. At the end of the day, Hope is hope because of the seeds that he has planted that now we get to see the harvest from Hope Family Health Center.”
She also applauded Dr. Gutiérrez’ wife, Clare, for being “his right hand, and she is such a strong supporter. I truly believe that behind every great man is a great woman. So, Clare, thank you for allowing him, and supporting him, and the drive towards Hope clinic.”
Clare Gutiérrez, RN, is retired after serving in the medical profession for more than 50 years.
The Texas Nursing Practice Act (NPA) states that a Registered Nurse (RN) takes responsibility and accepts accountability for practicing within the legal scope of practice and is prepared to work in all health care settings, and may engage in independent nursing practice without supervision by another health care provider. A registered nurse is responsible for providing safe, compassionate, and comprehensive nursing care to patients and their families with complex healthcare needs.
Roberto Haddad, Vice President, Counsel for Government Affairs and Policy, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, who serves as Chair, Board of Directors, Hope Family Health Center, also shared his appreciation for Dr. Alberto Gutiérrez and Clare Gutiérrez, RN.
“I can’t beat what Roxanne said because Dr. ‘G” is the heart and soul, and the mission of Hope Family Health Center is to serve the uninsured, the indigent, those people who have nowhere else to go. That is our mission, and he is a living, breathing epitome of that mission,” Haddad said. “I can’t say enough good things about Dr. ‘G’, or his wife Clare, who served on our board for about nine years. So it’s not only Dr. ‘G’, but both of them together.
“Like Roxanne said, ‘We love you, and you have done so much for the community. You have helped so many people of those million patients that you served. A big chunk of those are from Hope,” he continued. “You never take credit. We’re thankful that Futuro RGV is here honoring you today because you deserve it and so much more.”
After the event, Kinerk said she was privileged to present the award of recognition to Gutiérrez.
“As I got acquainted with Dr. Gutiérrez, I was impressed not only with his competence, but his genuine humility and the tremendous love and respect he has from the Hope Center staff and the many who knew him,” she said. “I am proud to be part of a community with leaders such as Dr. Alberto Gutiérrez. He is a wonderful role model for our young emerging leaders and I was grateful to be a part of recognizing and honoring his service.”
Dr. Gutiérrez paid tribute to his father for instilling the gift of charity in him.
“Yes, I have given a lot of myself to the community, I always have,” he said. “My dad always said, “Mijito (my son), if you have two of anything, give one to somebody who is underprivileged, doesn’t have one, whether it’s work or a substance. Share.”
With so many patients that he has served, Dr. Gutiérrez said he is writing a book about some of his countless experiences with his patients.
“It’s done. But I need Clare to tune it up a little bit before I send it off to a publisher. It’s 70 little vignettes – little stories – of patients of mine,” he proudly said. “The title of my book is going to be, ‘Doctor, Do You Want My Lizard?”, a title sure to generate curiosity, interest, and hopefully sales.
Dr. Gutiérrez joked to those who may believe it is time for him to finally relax from his grueling work schedule.
“So when the book comes out,” he said with a big smile. “Please buy it so maybe I can retire.”
Dr. Alberto Gutiérrez, born and raised in Rio Grande City, has been practicing family medicine for the last 55 years with the focus on serving the indigent and most vulnerable in many communities.
Dr. Gutiérrez graduated from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston in 1966, completed his medical internship in Fresnos, California, then served in the United States Air Force in 1967 through 1969.
Thereafter, Dr. Gutiérrez ran a private family practice in Carlsbad, New Mexico for 30 years.
During that time, he successfully pushed the medical center and physicians to provide a yearly health-screening event. A basketball gymnasium was utilized to accommodate the stations that included basic physicals, glaucoma checks, labs, foot exams for diabetes, breast exams, dietary consults, etc. After the first event, the crowds grew so large that lines formed throughout the parking lot while people waited patiently to enter.
He was a founding board member of Christmas Anonymous, an organization that through donations provided Christmas gifts for disadvantaged children of all ages. Referrals came in from churches, physicians, teachers, and state, county, and local law enforcement.
Before Dr. Gutiérrez left Carlsbad, the mayor declared the last Friday he was in town as “Dr. Gutiérrez Day”, honoring him with a dinner that evening.
In 1998, he moved back to the Rio Grande Valley, where he has been serving South Texas for 24 years.
For the past 15 years, Dr. Gutiérrez has served as the medical director for the Hope Family Health Center, a nonprofit charitable clinic that provides free, integrated medical and behavioral services to low-income and indigent residents of the Rio Grande Valley.
Dr. Gutiérrez is the heart and soul of the Hope Family Health Center, and has overseen the clinic’s growth from a small clinic on the verge of closing its doors to one that has strong community partnerships and has five thousand plus patient encounters each year.
As part of his work with DHR Health’s Hospice, Dr. Gutiérrez provided loving care to patients in their final days.
Dr. Alberto Gutiérrez and Clare Gutiérrez, Registered Nurse, have four adult children: Tatiana and spouse Tanya of Chesapeake, Virginia; Alberto Christian and spouse Vanessa of Albuquerque, New Mexico; Blanca of Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Rusty and spouse Claudia of Marshfield, Maine; and grandchildren Harrison, Nicholas, Pearl, Ryan,, and Stephen.
About Hope Family Health Center
Community HOPE Projects Inc, doing business as Hope Family Health Center, is a 501(C)3 not for profit organization providing primary medical, counseling, integrated behavioral health, peer support services, case management, and wellness programs to the uninsured living in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas.
All physicians are volunteers who donate their time to provide healthcare to those in need and the counseling and support staff are grant funded licensed professionals with a shared mission to provide healthcare to all.
HOPE is considered a safety net clinic, or a clinic providing healthcare to the uninsured and those who have limited or no access to medical or behavioral health services. HOPE not only delivers direct services, wellness and prevention programs have been implemented to truly assist individuals and families in improving their life.
HOPE is a non-governmental non-profit organization who is sustained through grants, individual donations, volunteer services and fundraisers. Through our continued support from the community we continue to grow in order to help the uninsured in our community. We thank our partners in health and look forward to continuing serving the Rio Grande Valley in the years to come.
Hope Family Health Center provides quality integrated medical and counseling services including preventative care and education to medically indigent individuals and families living in the Rio Grande Valley.
It mission is to strengthen families, foster personal dignity and empower each individual to take responsibility for his or her own well being.
Members, Board of Director, Hope Family Health Center, along with their respective professional affiliation and hometown, are:
• Roberto Haddad, Esq.
Vice President, Counsel for Government Affairs
• Jamison Merrick
Office of Organizational and Strategic Excellence
City of Pharr
• Jesse Ozuna
Vice President, Public Affairs
Texas Regional Bank
• David Sotelo
Business Development Telehealth
• Sofia Hernández
Chief of Staff and Strategic Initiatives
UTRGV School of Medicine–Edinburg
Rio Grande City, Texas
• Marla Sandoval
Director of Business Development
Valley Regional Medical Center–Brownsville
• César Guerra
Chief Nursing Officer
Mission Regional Medical Center
• Faith Escobar
Director of Business Development and Marketing
Weslaco Regional Rehabilitation Hospital
About DHR Health
DHR Health was the original teaching hospital for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine and encompasses a general acute hospital with the only dedicated women’s hospital south of San Antonio, a rehabilitation hospital, a behavioral hospital, more than 70 clinics Valley-wide, advanced cancer services, the only transplant program in the Rio Grande Valley – and as of September 8, 2021, the first 24/7 Designated Level One Trauma Center south of San Antonio.
A Level One Trauma Center is a hospital equipped and staffed to provide care for patients suffering from major traumatic injuries that result from falls, motor vehicle collisions, knife or gunshot wounds, or other catastrophes that threaten a person’s life or limbs.
On Tuesday, November 16, 2021, Driscoll Health System, in partnership with DHR Health, held a groundbreaking ceremony for Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley, located at 2820 W. Michelangelo Drive in Edinburg, which is being built on the site of the DHR Health campus, next to DHR Health’s The Women’s Hospital at Renaissance.
The new, independently operated eight-level pediatric hospital will further the mission of Driscoll Children’s Hospital founder Clara Driscoll to provide medical care to all the children of South Texas. The building is expected to be completed in Spring 2023.
The Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley represents a combined investment of more than $105 million. Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley will operate with more than 500 employees, creating significant economic impact and new job opportunities for clinical, ancillary and support staff in the Valley.
Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, Ltd (“DHR”) and its general partner, RGV Med, Inc. (“RGV Med”) own and operate a 519 licensed bed general acute care hospital located at 5501 South McColl in Edinburg. The facility is one of the largest physician-owned facilities in the United States that began as an ambulatory surgery center in 1997.
Clare Gutiérrez, Roberto Haddad, and Roxanne Ramírez 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 (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com)