Eddy Berges earned medical degrees and training in his native Dominican Republic and then in Puerto Rico.
A major goal still lay ahead and Berges pursued it by applying to several medical schools in the United States. Berges’ goal was to be accepted into a residency program. He found one in the Rio Grande Valley, and a program barely getting off the ground.
Berges and five other physician residents from around the country and world would form the inaugural class of the UTRGV/Knapp Family Practice Residency Program in Mercedes and Weslaco. It was a “life-changing decision” for Berges. Three years contain relationships and experiences which led to a June 30 graduation and going into medical practice as Dr. Berges.
“Three years went by like a blink of an eye,” said Berges, who is staying in the Valley to practice medicine. “Everything we did was building up for the classes to follow.”
The UTRGV/Knapp residency program is part of the UTRGV School of Medicine with presence in every part of the region. The Mid-Valley is well represented with the UT Health RGV/Knapp Family Health Center in Mercedes. The physician residents who study and practice medicine at the center also utilize Knapp Medical Center in Weslaco as a teaching hospital.
It was all a new facility and partnership that Berges and five other physician residents walked into three years ago as the first group of medical school residents in the Mid-Valley. The three-year program is a rigorous one. The physician residents are assessed daily in their diagnostic and treatment skills and in the quality of their interaction with patients.
There are also academic work and tests and preparations to ready the resident physicians for board and certification tests. For Berges, it was the years of medical education and training in three different countries leading to the outcome he long sought.
He will practice medicine in the United States as a family care physician for Rio Grande Medicine in Harlingen and Weslaco.
“This has become a very special place for me,” Berges said of the Mid-Valley and the region as a whole. “It has been challenging and exciting to be part of starting a clinic (in Mercedes) from zero and seeing Knapp become a teaching hospital.”
A First-Class First Class
The first group of physician residents is a special one, said Dr. Miguel Tello, the program director for the UTRGV/Knapp center in Mercedes. The competition to gain admission into a residency program is intense. Tello and his selection group of physicians cull through 800 applications yearly in selecting a handful of residents.
“We needed a seasoned group of physicians who would be able to handle the stress of being a first-year class,” Tello said in a statement released by Knapp Medical Center. “Their varied experiences and backgrounds really added a unique dimension to this class.”
The first class has an international/Latin America flavor with one Texan. Joining Berges, a Dominican, in the first class are Dr. Carolina Gomez de Ziegler and Dr. Eliana Costantino Burgazzi of Venezuela, Dr. Miguel Sanchez Rivas of Mexico, and Dr. Marita del Pilar Sanchez Sierra Marino of Peru. The Texan is Dr. Diego Moreno of Austin.
Berges and his family found a personal and cultural fit in the Valley and will make their home in Mission. He said it is likely two fellow physician residents will return after completing further training in different specialties of medicine.
“My wife and kids love the environment here,” Berges said. “We fell in love with the area and are putting down roots here.”