Graduates from the University of the Incarnate Word’s School of Osteopathic Medicine have a new residency program option just six miles from campus on San Antonio’s South Side.

Texas Vista Medical Center, formerly Southwest General Hospital, announced its new clinical affiliation with the private university and WellMed on Wednesday.

“Forty-three young doctors [will] make this a much more vibrant teaching hospital. … When you become a teaching hospital, you are making a commitment, not just to patients, but also to training doctors,” Jon Turton, president of Texas Vista Medical Center, told the San Antonio Report.

Starting July 1, the new physicians will receive outpatient training at area WellMed clinics and inpatient care training at Texas Vista, Turton said. They will also serve rotations at the Audie L. Murphy VA Hospital.

“We are excited that we will have a teaching hospital right here on the Southside of San Antonio, where there is a great need for medical services,” Councilwoman Adriana Rocha Garcia (D4), whose district includes the hospital, stated in a news release. “Texas Vista, [UIW’s School of Osteopathic Medicine] and WellMed are not only helping bridge the gap in health disparities but are working together to truly [transform] health outcomes in our Southside community.”

Texas Vista is the first teaching hospital on San Antonio’s South Side, where residents experience higher rates of diabetes and obesity and have a much shorter life expectancy than those living on the North and far Northwest sides of town.

UIW’s School of Osteopathic Medicine (UIWSOM), which admitted its first class in 2017 at Brooks, graduated its first class of 137 students on May 8. Some graduates are already accepted into the residency program for internal medicine at Texas Vista, said Dr. Michael Mohr, assistant dean for graduate medical education at UIWSOM.

A graduate of the  inaugural class in the School of Osteopathic Medicine smiles while crossing the stage after receiving his diploma. Saturday, May 8, 2021
A graduate of the inaugural class in the UIW School of Osteopathic Medicine smiles while crossing the stage after receiving his diploma. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report

A part of the medical school’s accreditation, which it received just after the first class graduated, is to have a plan for postdoctoral training, Mohr said.

“These partnerships with community clinics on the South Side [and] with hospitals on the South Side are very important not only to continue and complete the training of new physicians but also to extend the access to health care, which is so important for all people in this country and around the world,” he said.

Instead of treating a singular disease, osteopathic medicine takes a “whole-person” approach that considers culture, living circumstances, mental health, and other considerations into treatment options.

Turton hopes the local program will encourage students to practice medicine on the South Side.

“Experience tells us that doctors often will land close to where they trained at,” Turton said. “That’s … potentially good for our hospital, [but] it’s certainly good for the health care of our community as they get access to more doctors.”

Texas Vista, located at 7400 Barlite Blvd. near South San Antonio High School, is a 327-bed acute care facility with specialties in cardiology, general surgery, orthopedics, rehabilitation, women’s health, emergency services, physical therapy, wound care, hyperbaric medicine, and psychiatric services. Steward Health Care – which operates 39 hospitals across the U.S., Malta, and Colombia – purchased Southwest General Hospital in 2017 and announced its name change in March.

Texas Vista’s Healthy Horizons program, also announced in March, engages residents and partners such as the San Antonio Food Bank to provide preventive health screenings and promote healthy lifestyles.

“This is about momentum,” Turton said. “This is about building energy and support for those organizations and people in communities that exist on our South Side to say that we’re going to provide A) a great hospital with great health care, B) improve accessibility, and C) actually create sustainability by … growing and educating tomorrow’s doctors and nurses.”

Becoming a teaching hospital for osteopathic med students will also benefit patients and the doctors and nurses who already work there, he said.

“As we become a teaching hospital, we actually have more eyes on our patients, more eyes on each other, [and] more intellectual activity and academic activity in the care of patients,” Turton said. “Everyone becomes better as we become a teaching hospital.”

Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org