Several years ago, if a child living in the Rio Grande Valley had a chronic respiratory disorder, they most likely had to set out on a long, arduous trip to San Antonio to receive therapeutic treatment.
Now, parents living in the Rio Grande Valley are able to take their children to the Driscoll Children’s Specialty Center-Brownsville to be seen by one of three pediatric pulmonologists. This gives families a true break from having to make long trips.
Jon Roberts, MD, Fellow of the College of Chest Physicians; Director, Pediatric Pulmonology at Driscoll Children’s Hospital, said, “We are able to see patients at the Brownsville Specialty Center twice per month rotating between myself and the other two physicians working at Driscoll in Corpus Christi.”
The other two physicians are Paul Nolan, MD, and Santiago Encalada, MD, both whom have been serving patients in the Rio Grande Valley for quite some time.
Dr. Nolan himself suffered from severe persistent asthma and chronic bronchitis as a child.
“There is a great satisfaction in helping a child overcome breathing problems and experience activities that were previously beyond the child’s limits of breathing,” said Dr. Nolan. “I was once that child who could not breathe well; could not run or play rigorously with my friends, yet due to the care of specialized physicians in Pulmonology and Allergy Immunology my respiratory challenges were brought under control.”
Dr. Nolan, a native of Denton, said this also led to him choosing the path of Pediatric Pulmonology so that he could help children achieve an active lifestyle, something he sees as the highest importance for the children living in the Rio Grande Valley. He spent six years as a registered nurse prior to attending medical school at Texas Tech University, then completing his residency at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital and Mott’s Children’s Hospital in Michigan. Dr. Nolan made his way to Driscoll Children’s Hospital in 2010.
Coincidentally, Dr. Encalada experienced respiratory challenges himself as a child.
“I had to overcome the difficulties of growing up asthmatic,” said Dr. Encalada. “I want my patients to overcome what I was able to.”
Dr. Encalada, a native of Ecuador, began his residency at Driscoll Children’s Hospital in 2010. After a fellowship in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the Medical College of Wisconsin, he spent one and a half years working at the University of New Mexico before returning to Driscoll Children’s Hospital.
“The mix of different cultures, different belief systems, multiple social backgrounds as well as an increased complexity and variety of medical cases creates some challenges in providing treatment in the Rio Grande Valley, yet this also enriches the experience of providing care to a wonderful cultural mix in the region,” said Dr. Encalada.
As Dr. Roberts points out, patients who are rather sick do have to be transported to Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi to receive the best treatment available to them. He is grateful Driscoll has a system in place that allows for him and his team to identify those patients who need that level of care.
Beyond asthma and bronchitis, pediatric pulmonologists see children that suffer from congenital lung abnormalities, airway and lung infections (chronic cough, recurrent pneumonia and bronchopulmonary dysplasia), cystic fibrosis, along with treating sleep problems including sleep apnea. These conditions are just a handful of the chronic respiratory disorders they see in patients within the Rio Grande Valley they are able to treat.
“Creating a bond with the families of our patients is really important to me,” said Dr. Encalada. “I want to be able to answer all of their questions they have in regards to their child.”
Dr. Roberts, whose residency was at Winthrop University Hospital, Long Island, New York, adds that being able to travel to his patients, is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling
parts of his job.
“When we’re able to treat a patient locally at the Driscoll Children’s Specialty Center in Brownsville, it’s really great because it means they don’t have to go through the difficulty of traveling elsewhere,” said Dr. Roberts.
After being with Driscoll Children’s Hospital for more than seven years, Dr. Roberts has seen a lot of growth and is excited for what he and his colleagues have accomplished in regards to cystic fibrosis treatment.
In 2015, Driscoll was approved for accreditation by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation as a nationally recognized affiliate cystic fibrosis center.
This means that children living in the Rio Grande Valley needing treatment for cystic fibrosis are able to receive that treatment in Corpus Christi, instead of having to make that four hour, or sometimes even longer journey to receive excellent medical care.
Equally as important for Dr. Roberts is being able to get onto the Driscoll aircraft one to two times per month to fly to Brownsville and see his patients there.
“We get on that plane so that our patients to do not have to travel hours just to see us,” added Dr. Roberts. “We are here to serve them.”
The Driscoll Children’s Specialty Center-Brownsville, is located at 5500 North Expressway 77. Call (956) 698-8605 for more information or (361) 694-5224 to reach the Driscoll Children’s Hospital Pulmonology Clinic in Corpus Christi.