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Home | Tag Archives: Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso

Tag Archives: Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso

Foster Scholar Alumna makes a difference as a Family Medicine Physician

Sarah Sepulveda, M.D., didn’t let small-town roots limit her big dreams.

Dr. Sepulveda grew up in Fabens, Texas, a small community about 30 miles east of El Paso along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“I wanted to become a doctor because you can help improve the quality of patients’ lives,” said Dr. Sepulveda, a 2015 graduate of the Foster School of Medicine. “I loved the idea of connecting and helping people when they are at their most challenging moments in life. It is a wonderful feeling to know that the patient has this much trust and faith in you.”

Dr. Sepulveda received a scholarship to attend medical school through the Foster Scholars program.

“Receiving a scholarship meant freedom to me,” Dr. Sepulveda said. “It meant that I was free to pursue the career of my choice. I really wanted to practice family medicine from my first year in medical school. Knowing that I wasn’t going to have a large amount of debt allowed me to choose the career in which I was happiest, helping address a major need for primary care physicians in my community.”

Without scholarship support, Dr. Sepulveda’s dream to pursue a degree in medicine and serve families in her community would not have been possible.

Dr. Sepulveda makes a difference in the community as a family medicine doctor at Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso in Northeast El Paso.

Make an investment in the future of health care by joining us as we celebrate the Foster School of Medicine’s 10th anniversary; for more information, visit the school’s 10-year anniversary website.


In 2007, El Paso businessman Paul L. Foster donated $50 million to help create the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso. His gift has also funded the tuition of dozens of medical students, known as the Foster Scholars.

This academic year, the Foster Scholars program has awarded 90 students scholarships totaling $1.8 million; 78 students have received $15,000 Foster Scholarships, and 12 students have received $1,000 scholarships along with a non-resident tuition waiver.

Author:  – TTUHSC El Paso

TTP El Paso Mental Health Professionals offer tips,resources for overcoming emotional trauma after mass shooting

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso and Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso mental health professionals, who help patients recover from emotional trauma, are sharing tips and urging community members to seek help in the wake of the August 3rd Walmart shooting.

“Whether directly or indirectly affected by the mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart on August 3, some residents of our community may experience significant emotional issues,” TTP El Paso officials shared via an email.

Post-traumatic symptoms can affect victims and their loved ones, first responders, medical personnel, criminal investigators and others involved in traumatic incidents.

“People are going to know people who were in the store or know someone who was affected. There were a lot of folks who were witnesses, like first responders, even members of the media, and members of our TTUHSC El Paso and TTP El Paso community who treated the wounded,” said Melanie Longhurst, Ph.D., M.Ed., a TTUHSC El Paso assistant professor and clinical psychologist who works with veterans with PTSD in the El Paso Veterans Affairs health care system.

Resulting mental health disorders can include acute stress disorder (ASD), which occurs immediately after a traumatic incident, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is a long-term condition.

Affected individuals may experience a myriad of emotional and physical symptoms, including:

  • Depression, anxiety, anger and fear.
  • Nightmares.
  • Intrusive thoughts.
  • Flashbacks.
  • Negative thoughts about the future.
  • Poor appetite or overeating.
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep.
  • Social isolation.
  • Avoidance of reminders of the traumatic event.

Moataz M. Ragheb, M.D., Ph.D., a TTUHSC El Paso associate professor and practicing psychiatrist with Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso, said most people will recover with gradual resolution of symptoms over the following days, weeks, and sometimes months.

Only a minority will go on to develop long-term psychiatric conditions such as PTSD, he said.

With recovery being the rule rather than the exception, Dr. Ragheb and Dr. Longhurst said there are tools that can help people cope with trauma, including social and psychological interventions and medications, if necessary.

“You do not have  to suffer in silence until recovery is achieved,” Dr. Longhurst said.

Dr. Ragheb and Dr. Longhurst said another important tool is practicing self-care. There are things a person can do—and others things to avoid—to achieve recovery:

  • Refrain from using alcohol as a coping tool.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Stick to a nutritious diet and get regular exercise—even a brisk walk is helpful.
  • Minimize exposure to non-stop media coverage of the tragedy. Put down your phone or tablet—there is no need to constantly check social media for updates; it will just make you feel more stressed.
  • Practice relaxation exercises, mindfulness, meditation and/or yoga.
  • Do not suppress normal emotions.
  • Be aware of your brain’s patterns of response to the trauma. Don’t let negative thoughts take you into darker places. Pause, ponder and examine your train of thought. Challenge painful—often illogical—assumptions and conclusions. You are more resilient than you probably think.
  • There is no shame in reaching out for help.
  • This is not a one-size-fits-all list of recommendations; self-care will be different for different people.

As a community, we can help each other by checking in on friends and family and be there to listen to their concerns and worries. This is a time for both grieving and healing, and it works better together, Dr. Longhurst said.

As individuals, we should make an effort to reach out to our social networks of friends and family and stay connected.

“As the dust settles and acute stress starts to wind down, individuals will notice whether or not they will be exhibiting ongoing stress,” Dr. Longhurst said. “Is it impacting their day-to-day functioning? Are they struggling at work, struggling to get things done at home? Those are indicators to seek ongoing help.”

Those who feel they need counseling, guidance or simply want to talk to someone, can contact the organizations listed below for free, confidential consultation services.

  • Emergence Health Network’s 24-hour Crisis Line at 915-779-1800.
  • MetLife Grief Counseling Service at 1-866-885-6540.
  • Magellan Health Counseling Services at 1-800-327-7451.

New procedures help Gastroenterology patients avoid surgery

On Wednesday, Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso announced its physicians practicing at University Medical Center of El Paso’s Center for Diagnostic and Advanced Endoscopy are bringing new options for Gastroenterology patients who aren’t good candidates for surgery.  

For patients who have had gastric bypass surgery and need an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), physicians at TTP El Paso can replace surgery-assisted ERCP with an innovative procedure called EDGE (EUS-directed transgastric ERCP).

EDGE is an outpatient procedure that eliminates the need for surgery. During the EDGE procedure, physicians reconnect the excluded stomach to the gastric pouch using a stent passed via an endoscope (a thin, flexible tube), said Antonio Mendoza-Ladd, M.D., FACG, FASGE, assistant professor in TTUSHC El Paso’s division of gastroenterology. In addition to their duties at TTUHSC El Paso, all university professors practice medicine.

“Before, the patient would have to come in, get admitted maybe one or two days prior, and get put on the operating room schedule,” Dr. Mendoza-Ladd said.

“Getting the patients on the OR schedule is complicated because other surgeries usually take precedence over an ERCP. Once admitted, the surgeons do their part, then we do ours and the surgeon has to finish up the procedure. So, it’s tedious. But with this new procedure, we do it on an outpatient basis. The patient comes in today and goes home today. Then they come back three weeks later to remove the stent.”

For patients who have tumors in the stomach that prevent them from eating, surgery or a stent via an endoscope have often been the only options. However, surgery is not always a good choice for patients weakened by sickness; and endoscopic stents although effective, tend to require subsequent procedures to maintain unobstructed.

With an EUS-guided gastrojejunostomy procedure, physicians can now connect the stomach to a loop of bowel away from the tumor, allowing patients to eat normally almost immediately.

The procedure saves patients from surgery and is does not require further endoscopies as the regular stents do.

“That’s the beauty of this procedure: It is a one-and-done procedure, and we don’t have to do invasive surgery on malnourished patients who are sick already,” Mendoza-Ladd said. “This is a procedure that allows them to eat normally. We’re not curing the cancer, but at least they’re able to eat. This is a new procedure that only a few centers in the country are doing. In the state of Texas, only Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso and some centers in Houston have done it. Certainly, in the eastern New Mexico and West Texas area, TTUHSC El Paso is the only center performing it.”

Although gallbladder surgery is common and highly successful, there are patients who aren’t good surgical candidates. For those patients who have an inflamed gallbladder, and for those who have developed gallstones, TTP El Paso offers EUS-guided gallbladder drainage.

This endoscopic procedure drains the gallbladder and removes stones without a visit to the operating room.

“It saves time, it’s safer for the patient and it ends up with less costs for the hospital because it’s a cheaper procedure than an operation,” Dr. Mendoza-Ladd said. “It’s a good option for a patient who wants to avoid the operating room.”

New services offered by Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso ease surgery for breast cancer patients

Officials at Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso announced on Tuesday that Karinn Chambers, M.D., assistant professor at the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine’s department of surgery, is now certified in Hidden Scar Breast Cancer Surgery.

Dr. Chambers is a surgeon at Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso and medical director of the TTP El Paso Breast Care Center.

With the Hidden Scar approach to surgery, certified physicians use different techniques to hide surgical scars associated with breast cancer procedures, while allowing for the best oncological outcomes.

“Becoming certified in Hidden Scar surgery has allowed me to perfect the use of tools in the operating room that allow me to better visualize the internal structures of the breast, so that I can do more work on the inside and have a less-invasive scar on the outside,” Dr. Chambers said.

Dr. Chambers is one of only a few surgeons in West Texas certified in Hidden Scar surgery. She said the scar issue is important to her, even if patients don’t express it as their biggest worry at the time.

“For me, it’s a concern, because this is the scar they’re going to spend the rest of their lives with,” Dr. Chambers said. “It’s a delicate part of the anatomy to deal with. And though women at that time may not feel that the scar is their main concern, in the future it will matter to them. There are a lot of emotional ties to breast health, so if we can maintain our oncological outcomes with a minimal amount of cosmetic effect, that is something we’ll continue to strive to do.”

Dr. Chambers and her team at the Breast Care Center are now offering wireless breast lesion localization, a service that makes the day of the procedure more comfortable for the patient.

Traditionally, surgery teams attach guide wires to patients’ breasts so the surgeon can pinpoint the lesion’s location.

“In a lot of institutions across the United States, and what we were doing up until recently, standard of care was to place a clip at the time of biopsy, so we would know where that lesion was no matter how distorted the tissue became after biopsy,” Dr. Chambers said. “We would place a wire to that lesion, so that would be our arrow pointing us in the right direction. Wireless localization allows us to not have patients waiting in the pre-operative area with wires protruding from their breasts.”

With wireless localization, a tiny “seed” is placed within the breast cancer lesion during preoperative planning. On the day of surgery, sonar is used to locate the seed and the area to be removed.

The combination of wireless localization and Hidden Scar techniques can lead to a very positive outlook for the patient.

“Wireless localization shows me where the lesion is, and the Hidden Scar techniques help me strategically place my incision, so the cosmetic outcomes are better,” Dr. Chambers said. “This sonar seed that we’re placing might help me take less tissue as well, helping cosmetic outcomes.”

All treatment at the Breast Care Center is individualized and done to care for the patient in the least traumatic way possible, Dr. Chambers said.

“Not every woman needs a mastectomy; not every woman needs chemotherapy,” Dr. Chambers said. “Every breast cancer treatment is tailored to that person and to that type of cancer, so we can best mesh our patients’ needs with what we need to do to cure their cancer.”

Minimally invasive procedure that fixes hole in heart now performed at UMC

On Thursday afternoon, officials with Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso announced that their doctors now perform a treatment for a heart birth defect that affects up to 25% of people.

The procedure that closes the defect—known as an atrial septal defect, or ASD; and a smaller defect which causes stroke, called patent foramen ovale, or PFO—takes a much different route than the past use of open-heart surgery.

Doctors open a vein/vessel near the groin and insert a long, thin tube called a catheter. The catheter, loaded with an alloy device called an Amplatzer septal occluder, is guided into the interior of the heart. Once in place, the occluder is released, and it expands into a circular coil that closes the hole.

About 15 years ago, almost 90% of these type of congenital heart defects were repaired through open-heart surgery, said TTP El Paso interventional cardiologist Harsha Nagarajarao, M.D., who serves as co-director of the Cardiovascular Catheterization Laboratory at University Medical Center of El Paso.

Today, the transcatheter coil occlusion procedure is widely used across the world to treat heart holes.

Dr. Nagarajarao and other TTP El Paso interventional cardiologists perform the procedure at UMC. TTP El Paso is the clinical practice of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso.

The doctor said up to 25% of people are born with this kind of hole in the heart. Not all of them will require surgery, but those that present with stroke will need to have the hole closed, he said.

Dr. Nagarajarao, who also serves as an assistant professor in the division of cardiology at TTUHSC El Paso, adds that there is a large, unmet need in the area for treating this type of heart defect. To help increase the numbers of physicians capable of treating the defect, Dr. Nagarajarao is helping train TTP El Paso physicians for certification in the procedure.

Earlier this year, a 36-year-old man who suffered multiple strokes over two years with no indication of a cause was referred by TTP El Paso’s neurology department to Dr. Nagarajarao’s cardiology team.

The doctors determined he had a PFO which was responsible for his stroke and scheduled him for the coil occlusion procedure.

The surgery, performed by Dr. Nagarajarao, was a success and significantly reduced the risk of stroke for the patient. The surgery took about two hours and required only light anesthesia.


TTUHSC El Paso’s Medical Practice Reaccredited for Providing Top-Quality Patient Care

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso’s medical practice has been reaccredited by The Joint Commission for outpatient care.

Accreditation by TJC is a symbol of quality that reflects a commitment to providing safe and effective patient care.

Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso, a multi-specialty medical practice with seven locations throughout the city of El Paso, underwent a rigorous on-site survey in April 2018. TJC’s team of surveyors evaluated the clinic sites for several quality standards: care coordination, monitoring of procedures involving sedation or anesthesia, infection prevention and control, medication management, and patient education and training.

“[Having The Joint Commission accreditation] is a badge of honor,” said Michael J. Herrera, assistant director for the TTUHSC El Paso Office of Quality Improvement. “It says we are at a higher standard of quality and a higher standard of patient safety. We’re taking these extra steps for our patients.”

Established in 1975, TJC’s ambulatory health care accreditation program encourages high-quality patient care in all types of outpatient facilities. Today, the program serves 2,100 clinical providers, with more than 8,500 sites serving over 83 million patient visits annually.

TJC develops its accreditation standards by consulting with health care experts and providers, performance measurement experts, and patients. Scientific literature and expert consensus also are used to create the standards, which help organizations measure, assess and improve performance.

“The Joint Commission accreditation provides ambulatory care organizations with the processes contributing to improvements in a variety of areas, from the enhancement of staff education to the demonstration of leading practices within the ambulatory setting,” said Michael Kulczycki, M.B.A., CAE, executive director for The Joint Commission’s ambulatory health care accreditation program. “We commend Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso and its staff for achieving this pinnacle demonstrating a commitment to patient safety and quality.”

The hundreds of providers, residents and staff at the clinics are critical to maintaining the high standards required for TJC accreditation.

Irma Montes-Gomez, TTUHSC El Paso’s senior director for quality improvement/occupational health, added that TTUHSC El Paso conducts quarterly inspections of its clinics to maintain compliance with TJC standards and other regulatory agencies even while not under survey.

In addition to TTP El Paso’s reaccreditation this year, TJC recently conferred Comprehensive Stroke Center status for University Medical Center of El Paso. UMC is an affiliate and primary training site for TTUHSC El Paso’s medical and nursing students.

TTP El Paso’s TJC accreditation went into effect in April 2018 and will last for three years.

The Joint Commission provides accreditation to Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso. As the clinical practice of TTUHSC El Paso, Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso has received accreditation under the legal parent name of TTUHSC El Paso.

Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso Clinics Offer ALS Patients One-Stop, Multidisciplinary Care

As amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) progresses, patients with the neurodegenerative disease deal with loss of muscle function, and the escalating difficulties that come as a result.

Visiting a number of different physicians and specialists can become nearly impossible as patients lose use of their arms and legs, and struggle with breathing and even the ability to swallow food.

Now, for the first time in El Paso, patients with ALS can take part in multidisciplinary outpatient clinics. The clinics will allow ALS patients to see a physician and — in the same day, in one location — receive occupational, physical, speech and respiratory therapy, as well as social services.

While there is currently no cure for ALS, this multidisciplinary clinic can help prolong the lives of ALS patients and improve their quality of life, said Dr. Darine Kassar, M.D., assistant professor of neurology at the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine.

“After a patient sees all the specialists at the clinic, the team will meet at the end and have a treatment plan for the patient,” Dr. Kassar said. “Then we can anticipate things before they happen. For instance, if a patient has a breathing problem, then we don’t wait until that patient is in distress and has to go to the ER, where they will probably need to be intubated. Instead, we can anticipate that and see what the patient needs ahead of time. Then we can help them with noninvasive ventilation.”

There aren’t many people with ALS in El Paso, but formalized treatment has been missing for those patients, said Vinny Kaur, M.P.H., administrator in the Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso (TTP El Paso) Department of Neurology.

These clinics will help ALS patients in El Paso access formal, multidisciplinary treatment in a coordinated fashion for the first time.

The multidisciplinary clinics are a collaborative effort between TTP El Paso and the Texas Chapter of the ALS Association. Clinics will be offered at 1 p.m. every second Wednesday of the month at the main TTP El Paso location (4801 Alberta Avenue). The first clinic was offered Wednesday, Nov. 8.

Patients diagnosed with ALS can contact the clinic at 915-215-5900. All insurances are accepted.

TTP El Paso at Transmountain Hosts Public Health Fest Saturday

On Saturday, Sept. 9, Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso (TTP El Paso)’s newest clinic, TTP El Paso at Transmountain, will open its doors to the public at West Health Fest.

The free event, jointly hosted by TTP El Paso and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso), will offer a fitness challenge, health screenings, cooking demos, Zumba and yoga classes, an inflatable obstacle course, and prizes throughout the day.

The highlight of the West Health Fest will be the Texas Tech Fitness Challenge. This CrossFit-inspired workout will challenge participants to complete a 250-meter row, followed by six to eight tire flips.

Participants will then pull a sled (95 pounds for males, 65 pounds for females) and race the clock to finish off the challenge with burpees (15 reps for males, 10 reps for females).

First, second, and third place winners will be announced based on fastest times for each event.

More information about the event, including the schedule and Doctor’s Corner topics can be found HERE.

What:             West Health Fest

When:            9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9

Where:          Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso at Transmountain | 2000 B Transmountain Road

New Chief Medical Officer to Facilitate TTUHSC El Paso/Tenet Collaboration

Gustavo “Gus” Martell, M.D., FACOG, has been appointed Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for The Hospitals of Providence Transmountain Campus — the nation’s newest teaching hospital. In collaboration with Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso (TTP El Paso) at Transmountain, the hospital will help serve the health care needs of El Paso and Southern New Mexico, all while providing a world-class training facility for medical students and residents.

Whereas hospital CMOs are typically hired and employed by the hospital, Dr. Martell will serve in this new role as an employee of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso), reflecting the unique collaboration between the University and The Hospitals of Providence.

In this important role, Dr. Martell will be the primary liaison to hospital management for matters relating to the hospital’s medical staff. He will also be responsible for fostering a positive and productive teaching environment by reinforcing the hospital’s unique culture as an academic teaching facility composed of full-time and community faculty.

As the hospital’s clinical leader, Dr. Martell will also oversee clinical operations to ensure that patients at the hospital receive the highest quality of care.

Dr. Martell brings to TTUHSC El Paso an extensive background, including 22 years of clinical and progressive health care management experience in the field of obstetrics and gynecology. A native of El Paso, he earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and his medical degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston in 1991, and went on to complete his residency at the Texas Tech Regional Academic Health Sciences Center in El Paso (now TTUHSC El Paso) in 1995.

Dr. Martell was elected Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) by the medical students in his residency program and was chosen for the outstanding resident award in his graduating class. Having personally delivered nearly 7,000 El Pasoans, Dr. Martell’s new leadership role will allow him to continue his legacy of service to the border community.

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