Kleberg Medical Scholars and President’s Excellence Awards held in Brownsville

The Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC) celebrated the achievements and career potential of eight young physicians at an awards ceremony this month. Each was named a Kleberg Medical Scholar. The 2005 scholars are Asma Ashraf, M.D., James Castillo, M.D., Jennifer Gonzales, M.D., Roberto Hernandez, M.D., Jesse Martinez, M.D., Okney Modi, M.D., Abha Sarwal-Gyani, M.D., and Carlos Wade, M.D.

As residents of the RAHC, the Kleberg Medical Scholars represent the finest in Valley medical education and training. Not only are they completing their medical residencies, they also conduct research related to health problems that are on the rise specifically in South Texans. Various aspects of type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, pain management and several other topics are included in their research.

The Robert J. Kleberg Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation, a generous supporter of the new Kleberg Scholars Program, was incorporated in 1950 as a general purpose foundation to benefit Texas. Throughout the years, its directors have tried to retain this mission. In 2002, the Kleberg Foundation established the Kleberg Medical Scholars Program with a five-year grant of $1.46 million to fund research by RAHC medical residents.

Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., Health Science Center president, expressed his appreciation for the strong efforts put forth by several people.

“We are so proud to oversee the Medical Education Division in Harlingen and the Medical Research Division in Edinberg, and we are proud to be colleagues with the UT Health Science Center at Houston, which operates the RAHC Public Health Division in Brownsville,” Dr. Cigarroa said. “Together these components together represent our joint commitment to a healthier future for the entire Valley.”

Dr. Cigarroa credited the keynote speaker, Craig Hanis, Ph.D., professor at the Human Genetics Center, with helping develop the next generation of researchers. Dr. Hanis’ research career has focused on the genetics and epidemiology of type 2 diabetes and its complications among Mexican-Americans. With help from people like the Kleberg Medical Scholars, he said he will continue to try to find a way to end the high incidence of the disease.

In addition to the Kleberg Medical Scholars tribute, Dr. Cigarroa and former Texas Gov. Dolph Briscoe Jr. presented the first annual President’s Excellence Awards to two exceptional individuals: Joe LaMantia, Jr. of McAllen and Brian Smith, M.D., M.P.H. of Harlingen.