UTRGV School of Medicine accredited for its first psychiatry program

EDINBURG — The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley received initial accreditation for the first residency program in general psychiatry in the new School of Medicine.

EDINBURG — The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley received initial accreditation for the first residency program in general psychiatry in the new School of Medicine.

This is the first of several graduate programs in psychiatry planned for the school of medicine, which opens its doors this fall. Dr. Arden Dingle, UTRGV School of Medicine clinical professor of psychiatry and neurology, will lead the program and was involved in its entire development.

“It’s very exciting that everything seems to be working out,” Dingle said. “I think we have the potential to have a great program that really is needed in the Valley.”

The plan is to start recruiting medical graduates during the summer so that the first cohort of residents can start in July 2017, she said. In the meantime, UTRGV officials will be planning and applying for accreditation in other specialties within psychiatry, such as child, addiction and forensic psychiatry.

The need, she said, for a graduate psychiatry programs is obvious due to the fact that there are approximately 1.3 million people in the Valley, but only 34 psychiatrists in practice.

“There aren’t enough mental health providers, just in general,” Dingle said. “There aren’t enough specialty people, so there aren’t really programs for the elderly, there aren’t really programs for substance abuse. I think you can pretty much name any area of mental health and there’s a tremendous need.”

The program will take six residents per year, and they will be based at the Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen and will practice at outpatient facilities throughout Cameron and Hidalgo counties, including the Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen and Brownsville, the Rio Grande State Center in Harlingen, Tropical Texas Behavioral Health facilities and at the VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend System’s clinics.

The initial accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education will be followed by a council visit in two years to determine the state of the program and whether it qualifies for full accreditation. Overall, the School of Medicine has been accredited for eight residency programs so far.

Dr. Gabriel de Erausquin, founding chair of the department of psychiatry and director of neurosciences department, said this initial program is only the start of many possible qualifications.

Right now, the department is in the planning phase to apply for accreditation for the child psychiatry program and a general neurology program, he said, as well as an internship program through the American Association of Psychology.

“We intend to have a fully developed academic program,” Erausquin said. “The plan is to have a very extensive coverage of the needs of the Valley by providing specialty care across the board.”

The general neurology program will also open the door to other specialties in the future, but in the mean time the idea is to have the program in 2018.

The overall goal for the School of Medicine is to be accredited for a wide variety of residency programs to encourage doctors to stay in the area and meet the medical needs of Valley residents.

dperez-hernandez@themonitor.com

The Regional Academic Health Center in Harlingen operates under the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.