DeTar, A&M break ground on family medicine clinic

Mayor Paul Polasek, Representative Geanie Morrison, Corbin Lauger; Contractor, Dennis Patillo, DeTar Board of Trustees Member and member of the Graduate Medical Education Committee, William R. Blanchard, Chief Executive Officer for DeTar, Dr. Jim Donovan; Associate Dean for the Texas A&M College of Medicine..Cliff Thomas; Chairman of Texas A&M University System Board of Regents and the Owner and Chairman of Pilot Thomas Logistics, Speedy Stop Food Stores, and CL Thomas, Inc. ..Sidney Ontai, M.D., M.B.A.; DeTar Family Medicine Residency program director and assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Medicine..Kathleen Steiner, M.D.; Local family medicine physician and member of the Graduate Medical Education Committee..Robbyn Michalka; Director, Texas AHEC East—Victoria Region and member of the Graduate Medical Education Committee..Dr. Edward Nwanegbo; Assistant Professor at the Texas A&M College of Medicine..Dr. Mark Stevens; Assistant Professor at the Texas A&M College of Medicine

North Heights Elementary School, known since the 1930s as Juan Linn Elementary, will breathe new life as the site of a family medicine clinic.

"For decades, the land we are standing on housed education facilities," said William R. Blanchard, chief executive officer of DeTar Healthcare System.

That tradition continues as the clinic will house residents of DeTar and Texas A&M University's family medicine residency program, which received accreditation in February.

Blanchard has worked to bring the residency program to Victoria for the past four years, but it was actually the idea of Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp and Victoria business leader Dennis Patillo, who serves on the DeTar Board of Trustees.

"There will be a bigger demand for primary care physicians over the next 10 years," he said.

With more Crossroads residents obtaining health insurance, the area will need more family medicine doctors.

Blanchard also announced to the crowd at the groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday afternoon that DeTar will continue to grow.

In about two months, DeTar will break ground on a $10 million project to double the size of its emergency room, he said.

The new outpatient clinic sits next to DeTar Hospital Navarro's ER department and will see $600,000 in renovations.

"Right now we're just getting our name out," said Dr. Sidney Ontai, who was hired in spring 2014 as program director and assistant professor.

Ontai said he's been recruiting physicians for the new program that is scheduled to start July 1, 2016.

He'll start the interview process with candidates this fall.

The three-year curriculum will train residents to provide comprehensive primary care within a patient-centered medical environment.

Residents are doctors who will be assigned their own patients and will work in a clinic equipped to provide care six days a week.

Drs. Ontai, Edward Nwanegbo and Mark Stevens are professors for the Texas A&M College of Medicine who will also work at the clinic.

"One of us is always available on Saturdays," Ontai said. "As physicians, our duty is to care for patients; we must meet them where they are - and that is not always Monday through Friday from 8 to 5."

The program will enroll an additional six residents per year, for a total program size of 18 family medicine residents training at DeTar in 2018.

The program received a $150,000 planning grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Dr. Jim Donovan, vice dean for the Texas A&M College of Medicine in Round Rock, said this also becomes a workforce opportunity.

"Texas has a severe physician shortage, and it's even greater in the field of primary care," Donovan said. "So one of the great things about this is we'll be training six new primary care doctors every single year."

About 60 percent of physicians choose to stay where they completed their residency, he said.

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Features Editor

Laura has covered health and nonprofits in the Crossroads since 2014. She's also mom to a toddler, loves journalism conferences and is a big fan of sci-fi and crime TV.

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