Institute of Neuroscience Set to Provide Innovative Medical Services in South Texas


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Within UTRGV’s new 32,000 square foot Institute of Neuroscience is state-of-the-art equipment, including this MRI machine housed in a new GE Caring suite. The Caring Suite is larger and quieter than traditional units for patient comfort, and performs analysis in less time. Plus, it plays patient-chosen video and music, is lit in soft colors, and displays calming visual images on the ceiling to help calm the patient. (Courtesy photo)

Mega Doctor News

By Karen Villarreal

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – UTRGV School of Medicine Expands Essential Medical Services for the Rio Grande Valley with its Institute of Neurosciences (LOI), which will open on October 26 in Harlingen.

ION will serve as a hub for multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary clinical care, research, education and community partnership with a central goal: to transform brain health in the valley and beyond.

Dr. Michael R. Dobbs, MHCM, is Chair of the Department of Neurology and Chief Medical Officer of UT Health Rio Grande Valley, the clinical arm of UTRGV School of Medicine. (UTRGV Photo by David Pike)

Dr Michael R. Dobbs, MHCM, is director of the neurology department and Chief Medical Officer of UT Health Rio Grande Valley, the clinical arm of the UTRGV School of Medicine. He said ION’s equipment, specialists and educational programs will fill a healthcare gap in the RGV that will have lasting impact.

“We want to give the people of South Texas access to advanced neurological care,” Dobbs said, “and our Institute of Neuroscience will make it happen.”

An expert in neurological health and research, Dobbs is known internationally for his pioneering work in clinical neurotoxicology. He arrived at the UTRGV in 2019 from theUniversity of Kentucky College of Medicine, where he led efforts to open four-year medical schools in three locations across the state. His experience in growing academic-healthcare networks has been instrumental in guiding ION’s plans.

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He said the new state-of-the-art facility at UTRGV provides a dedicated space for the treatment and research of diseases of the brain, spine and nerves – such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis – for people of all ages.

Additionally, UTRGV is positioning ION to provide medical and research services that will serve as essential learning experiences for medical students at the university, with plans to launch a residency-to-train program in the Valley. of Rio Grande, the next generation of neurologists at ION.

“We want those who want to train to be leaders in neurological care to be able to do so here at ION,” said Dobbs.


ION’s in-house technology will enable physicians to provide advanced specialized services and procedures, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), high-resolution computed tomography and positron emission tomography (PET), a type of test that uses a radioactive drug to show the metabolic activity of organs and tissues, such as cancerous tumors.

Dobbs said these treatments would be important for research, especially in advanced cancer care.

ION will also offer a dedicated infusion suite for infusion therapy – an intravenous (IV) delivery method for drugs. Although intravenous treatments are common today, Dobbs said, most neurology clinics don’t have an on-site infusion room to perform advanced treatment. This will allow ION specialists to use highly targeted and potent drugs based on the latest research to treat neurological diseases in innovative ways. ION is also distinguished by the fact that its on-site pharmacy will deal specifically with neurological diseases.

“We think it is one of the first, otherwise the first, neurocentric retail pharmacies anywhere, ”Dobbs said.


In its 32,000 square feet, ION houses state-of-the-art epilepsy equipment and a high-end MRI machine. The MRI machine is placed in a new GE Care Suitesaid Dobbs, an executive who transforms the traditional magnetic resonance imaging experience, which can be stressful for many patients.

“It is very effective in calming people with claustrophobia and reduces the need for sedation for these patients,” he said. “Our GE Caring Suite is a first in the Valley region for advanced imaging. ”

The GE Caring Suite is larger and quieter for patient comfort, and performs analysis in less time. In addition, the suite plays the video and music of the patient’s choice, is lit with soft colors, and displays calming visual images on the ceiling to help calm the patient.

“We look forward to providing this service to our patients because the sensory experience is so much more enjoyable for them,” said Dobbs.

Dr Ihsan M. Salloum, Chairman of the Department of Neuroscience at UTRGV’s Faculty of Medicine and Director of ION, said this cutting-edge MRI suite is part of ION’s commitment to its patients.

“Our mission is to put the needs of our patients first,” said Salloum. “It’s called person-centered medicine, and it’s our top priority.”


To utilize the latest ION medical technology and equipment, highly trained and trained healthcare professionals from UT Health RGV have been positioned for on-site care, such as lumbar punctures, outpatient monitoring of people with neurological conditions and non-cosmetic clinical Botox.

“Our goal is to have specialists who can provide cutting edge care and do it locally,” Dobbs said.

In addition to Dobbs, some of the specialists who will serve ION include:

  • Dr Francisco Pascual Gomez, MS, the leading specialist in multiple sclerosis in the Lower Valley. He will lead the efforts of the infusion suite for MS and related conditions.
  • Dr Brian Perry, FACS, the only neurotologist in the region. Perry brings medical and surgical training in the treatment of tumors of the base of the skull and related structures of the ear, head, skull and neck. He treats RGV patients who suffer from tinnitus, migraine, imbalance and dizziness, and other hearing and cranial nerve disorders.
  • Dr Frank Gilliam, MD, MPH, who will diagnose and provide services for epilepsy and seizures.


In addition to treating neurological issues, the team of medical specialists at UTRGV will work to conduct cutting-edge patient-focused research at the institute, performing clinical trials to advance medical science. Some of the research at the ION will focus on experimental treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and stroke recovery, and involve medical students in the research.

One area of ​​study is led by Neurology Specialist Gilliam, board certified in Neurology, Electroencephalography (EEG), Epilepsy, and Neuroimaging. Gilliam has decades of experience diagnosing and treating the most complex forms of epilepsy, including identifying patients who can be treated with surgery when drugs can’t control symptoms.

“He is a world-renowned epilepsy researcher,” Dobbs said. “Researchers often cite his work, and he is of the highest caliber in the field. “

Gilliam, who evaluated medical treatments to improve the quality of life of Hispanics with epilepsy, including epilepsy surgery, treatment of comorbid depression in epilepsy, and screening for adverse drug side effects, said ION is a substantial advance for neurology in the Valley.

“This gives the opportunity for specialists in epilepsy, movement disorders, multiple sclerosis, memory disorders, strokes and childhood neurology to treat patients, teach students and to conduct research using the latest technologies in neuroimaging and clinical neurophysiology, ”he said.

Dobbs said all ION specialists are essential members of the healthcare team.

“We are proud to have them with us, to fulfill our commitment to serving the Valley as we grow to meet the demand for neurological care,” he said.

Dr Michael Hocker, MD, MHS, Dean of UTRGV School of Medicine, said the Institute of Neuroscience brings state-of-the-art facilities and world-class care to the region.

“We are excited about all the opportunities that ION offers,” he said. “Our students will be able to train with world-class teachers, doctors and scientific researchers. And the people of South Texas can be diagnosed and treated right here at home in the valley.

“By opening the doors to the UTRGV Institute of Neuroscience, we are opening a wider path to brain health. And we provide the kind of access to health care that everyone should have. “

(Illustration of the Faculty of Medicine of the UTRGV)


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