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Valley athletes better protected during sports activities as a result of summer 2023 seminar for athletic trainers championed by DHR Health’s Senior Executive Vice President Marissa Castañeda - Valley athletes - Titans of the Texas Legislature

FEATURED: Mike Salinas, a Rio Grande Valley native, is head football coach for Texas A&M University-Kingsville, a leadership position that he has held since 2020. He was a featured speaker on Friday, July 28, 2023, for the Texas Emergency Athletic Management Seminar (TEAMS), hosted by DHR Health at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance. His sister, Marissa Castañeda, who helped develop the day-long event, serves as the hospital system’s Senior Executive Vice President.

Photograph Courtesy DHR HEALTH FACEBOOK


Valley athletes better protected during sports activities as a result of summer 2023 seminar for athletic trainers championed by DHR Health’s Senior Executive Vice President Marissa Castañeda

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The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, a state agency which provides oversight for a broad range of occupations, businesses, facilities and equipment, protects the health and safety of Texans and ensures they are served by qualified professionals, such as athletic trainers.

Athletic trainers provide a form of health care – under the direction of a licensed physician – that includes preventing, recognizing, assessing, managing, treating, disposing of, and reconditioning athletic injuries.

They typically serve in high schools, colleges or universities, professional or amateur athletic organizations, athletic facilities, and health care facilities.

An athlete is a person who participates in an organized sport or sport-related exercise or activity.

With the fall 2023 semester well underway in Texas high schools, student-athletes in the Valley are better protected as a result of the Texas Emergency Athletic Management Seminar, hosted by DHR Health on Friday, July 28, 2023, which was the idea of the hospital system’s Senior Executive Vice President Marissa Castañeda,

TEAMS educated more than 150 sports-related professionals

“We worked to bring the Rio Grande Valley, and the state of Texas, the best in sports medicine care,” said Castañeda. “DHR Health, in collaboration with the Valley Athletic Trainers Association (VATA), created the Texas Emergency Athletic Management Seminar (TEAMS). This seminar provided more than 150 sports medicine team practitioners, athletic trainers, nurses, and those who provide direct student-athlete patient care, with the latest advancements in sports medicine.”

The Valley Athletic Trainers Association was founded in 2001 by a group of athletic trainers who saw the need for a professional organization in the Rio Grande Valley. Since that time VATA has grown into an organization with more than 100 members. It provides continuing education credit through the South Padre Athletic Training Seminar, a CEU Lecture Series, and a Student Trainer Workshop. VATA also provides assistance to student athletic trainers by awarding up to four $1,000 scholarships to qualified students-athletes in 12th grade.

DHR Health operates two general acute hospitals, the only dedicated women’s hospital south of San Antonio, a rehabilitation hospital, a behavioral hospital, and more than 70 clinics Valley-wide.

DHR Health offers the most comprehensive and advanced healthcare services in the Rio Grande Valley including – but not limited to – 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.

This all-day, cutting-edge TEAMS event on Friday, July 28, 2023 was free-of-charge for attendees.

DHR Health physicians and special guest speakers working with universities and athletic programs from throughout the country made presentations and offered attendees with hands-on training and a skills lab. 

“We’re so proud to partner with the Valley Athletic Trainers Association for this seminar, and the timing couldn’t be better given that the new school year is almost upon us,” Castañeda said in advance of the July 28, 2023 gathering. 

This seminar featured evidence-based lectures and interactive, hands-on training from experts within the sports medicine field from all over the country, providing participants with opportunities to gain and enhance the knowledge, competence, and skills needed to recognize and manage sports-related injuries.

“By creating events like TEAMS, we are working to fulfill the mission of DHR Health: to improve the well-being of those we serve with a commitment to excellence – every patient, every encounter, every time,” Castañeda further explained.

TEAMS, which focused on the latest developments in sports medicine, “is a testament to DHR Health’s dedication to advancing medical knowledge and empowering healthcare professionals,” she added. 

Dr. Oliveira: “We are filling a gap in medical knowledge.” 

Dr. Noel Oliveira, a certified wound specialist physician who is Chairman of Medical Education Committee for DHR Health, echoed Castañeda’s viewpoints.

“We identify the gap in medical knowledge, and then we bring in the speakers to educate and fill that gap so everyone who leaves no longer has a lack of knowledge of that particular topic,” he emphasized.

“We are the largest, number one health care provider in the area, so this yet another route, another method of providing top-level health care for a particular entity in our community – the student-athlete,” he said at the Friday, July 28, 2023 TEAMS. “We are providing them with athletic trainers, school nurse, coaches, EMS personnel who are now more knowledgeable today to treat the student-athlete and also possibly save their lives, like Damar Hamlin with the Buffalo Bills.”

Denny Kellington is credited for helping save the life of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin after Hamlin collapsed on the field in the first quarter of a “Monday Night Football” game vs. the Cincinnati Bengals on January 2, 2023.

Kellington, an assistant athletic trainer for the Bills, was part of a team of medical professionals on the sidelines at Paycor Stadium when Hamlin, 24, went into cardiac arrest after tackling Cincinnati wide receiver Tee Higgins.

After Hamlin collapsed, Kellington took action, performing life-saving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) that, according to Albert Breer, a senior NFL reporter for Sports Illustrated, was “absolutely vital” and “a huge difference-maker” in bringing Hamlin back to life.

Marissa Castañeda, Alonzo Cantú help develop TEAMS

With the possibility of such serious sports injuries taking place, Oliveira praised Castañeda for recognizing the vital roles of athletic trainers and helping develop TEAMS on Friday, July 28, 2023 into a vital success.

“This is the first of this kind in the Valley for the local Valley Athletics Trainers Association. This is their conference, sponsored by DHR Health. They have their state and national conference every year, and it goes around the United States. They always have one on South Padre Island, and that’s a good one, too,” Oliveira said.

He further explained some of Castañeda’s other interest in the inaugural TEAMS event.

“Marissa, who was born into a coaching family – their dad (Eloy Salinas) coaching for 50 years in the Valley, and then her brother, Mike Salinas, who is now the coach at Texas A&M Kingsville – so she knows a lot about this,” Oliveira noted.

“She thought, ‘You know, let’s do that. So she put together a meeting between herself, Alonzo Cantú, and the athletic trainers, and they were all on board. They were like, ‘Wow! Really? Our own conference?’” recalled Oliveira.

Cantú, a McAllen resident, is a banker, developer, philanthropist and dedicated community leader, and one of the founding members of DHR Health, who also serves on its Board of Managers, among many other high-profile private and public interests.

“We told them, ‘Yes’, and we wanted to be robust, we wanted bring in the best because that’s what DHR Health does, and we did,” Oliveira continued. “We brought in their speakers that they requested, considered to be the best in the nation, along with our local best, and we put together this conference.”

Among the distinguished speakers, listed in alphabetical order, from DHR Health at TEAMS – which took place at the Edinburg Conference at Renaissance – and their respective presentation, were:

• Dr. Olabiyi Akala, MD, DHR Health Emergency Department Medical Director, “Airway Management”;

• Dr. Leonel Estofan, MD, DHR Health Neurologist, “Emergency Management for Seizures”; 

• Dr. Juan D. Palacios, MD, DHR Health Endocrine Diagnostic and Rapid Treatment Center Medical Director, “Diabetes and the Athlete”; and 

• Dr. Jeff Skubic, DO, DHR Health Level I Trauma Medical Director, “Trauma Response”.

Also featured at TEAMS from other parts of Texas and beyond – listed in alphabetical order – and their respective presentation, were: 

• Ron Courson, ATC, PT, SCS, NRAEMT, CSCS, from Georgia, Courson is the Executive Associate Athletic Director –Sports Medicine, University of Georgia, “Emergency Preparation”; 

• Missy Fraser, PhD, LAT, ATC, from South Dakota. Dr. Fraser is a neuroscientist and certified athletic trainer with expertise in the clinical management of sports-related concussion, “Potential Catastrophic Head Injuries in Sports”;  

• Mike Kordecki, DPT, SCS, ATC, from Illinois. Dr. Kordecki has given a number of lectures on the rehabilitation of low back injuries in athletes, “Decision Making Process for Pre-Hospital Equipment Removal in Catastrophic Spine Injuries”;  

• Jim Kyle, MD, from West Virginia. Dr. Kyle’s career as an Emergency Room physician spans 30-plus years, “Medical Timeout”;  

• Ryan Pittsinger, PhD.,  from College Station. Dr. Pittsinger is the Assistant Athletic Director, Director of Counseling and Sport Psychology Services, Texas A&M University. He will present on “Mental Health Emergencies”; 

• Mike Salinas, a Rio Grande Valley native, is head football coach for Texas A&M University-Kingsville, a leadership position that he has held since 2020. He was previously the head coast for Robert Vela High School from 2012 to 2017, and Weslaco High School from 2018 to 2019; and 

• Michael Szymanski, PhD, ATC, from Connecticut. Dr. Szymanski is currently the Director of Education at the Korey Stringer Institute and a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Connecticut, “Best Practice Approaches to Heat Stroke Prevention.” 

More about athletic trainers in Texas

Also according to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, services that may be provided by athletic trainers may include, but are not limited to:

• Planning and implementing a comprehensive athletic injury and illness prevention program;

• Assessing an athlete’s injury or illness in order to provide emergency or continued care and referral to a physician for definitive diagnosis and treatment, if appropriate;

• Administering first aid and emergency care for acute athletic injuries and illnesses;

• Planning and implementing a comprehensive rehabilitation program for athletic injuries; and

• Providing health care information and counseling athletes.

More about DHR Health

On Tuesday, November 16, 2021, Driscoll Health System 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. 

DHR Health was instrumental in working with Driscoll Children’s Hospital to bring the first true freestanding children’s hospital to the Valley.

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 later in 2023. 

The Driscoll Children’s Hospital Rio Grande Valley represents a combined investment of more than $105 million with DHR Heath. 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.


VerónicaR. Yunes 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 (

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