The Laredo Economic Development Corporation (LEDC), under the direction of Gene Lindgren, has teamed up with several community and education leaders to organize a Healthcare Advisory to address the underserved needs of the Laredo Community. The Healthcare advisory is spearheaded by LEDC board members, Dr. Rolando (Rolly) Ortiz, Killam Development Chief Operating Officer, and Mr. Elmo Lopez, Jr., Gateway Community Health Center CEO.
Dr. Ortiz stated, “The original idea was to organize the advisory to investigate how to best attract medical companies to Laredo but soon shifted to a more pressing priority of addressing the understaffed skilled healthcare workforce. “Mr. Elmo Lopez applauded the current efforts between Laredo College, TAMIU, and UIW Residency programs but stated, “It is simply not enough. All of us are tapping into the same few professionals and skilled healthcare workers being produced every semester and we are still short-staffed.”
Mr. Lindgren said the steering committee invited a representative from all contributing stakeholder agencies starting with the City of Laredo. Councilwoman Alyssa Cigarroa and Councilman Dr. Marte Martinez both provided insight on how to best address this issue as a whole and the need for good data. Dr. Melissa Martin, UIW Family Medicine Residency Program Director shared feedback she received during the exit interviews of residents who complete the program and said, “Often the loan forgiveness program is not attractive enough to secure a permanent commitment from residents graduating. Many of our residents want to go back home and for others, the cultural dynamics do not meet their needs, so we lose them to other cities.”
Mr. Elmo Lopez, Jr. expressed “The goal is to “grow our own” so the medical and healthcare workforce we are producing, stays in Laredo. Currently, the ISD Career and Technical Education programs are creating opportunities for the students by introducing them to some of these career opportunities and working closely with Laredo College and TAMIU. However, other challenges like a student’s age, work-based learning/internship/apprenticeship opportunities, and teacher shortages are still uphill battles.
This is another reason why the Laredo EDC is making the commitment to this cause.” The LEDC is working to bridge the participation between the ISDs, higher education (College and University), the City, County, and the private sector.
Ms. Montes-Ewing, CEO of Doctors Hospital Laredo, pledged, “Our hospital is willing to allow the use of their sites and equipment to help further educate our community and if needed even investigate having some of our staff educate, but this would require further research.” Mr. Leal, CEO of Laredo Medical Center, said he too was open to such support.
Ms. Montes-Ewing continued, “Of course, all of our system policies and logistics need to be addressed for approval first but this is something we are willing to entertain in light of how desperate the situation is.” Dr. Rolly Ortiz reminded the committee, “We need to come up with a pipeline, an intentional pathway, that starts with the ISD’s, transitions into higher education, and ends up in our skilled healthcare workforce with ALL of the stakeholders on the same page working together on the same goal.
This implementation will not happen alone and must be data-driven, with intention and purpose supported by the City of Laredo, County of Webb, and community partnerships. Once we develop this Healthcare Workforce Template and Pathway Implementation, then the Laredo EDC can move to the other three areas of regional need: government, transportation/logistics, and education.
With the Health Care strategy in place, we will repeat the template and implementation again.” Mr. Lindgren is excited about the LEDC’s Healthcare Advisory’s commitment to the Laredo community. “This advisory is so important in addressing the healthcare shortage and also in securing support from LEDC membership and community leaders. It has to be a synergetic partnership of dedicated individuals. We are witnessing this effort first-hand with this committee. These contributions cannot come fast enough.”