Always an avid researcher, Dr. Victor Gonzalez was looking to establish his retina practice in a region of the country where he could maximize his skills, not only as a retina surgeon, but also as a retina researcher. The Harvard Medical School graduate was known to often spend his free time reading the research of leaders in his field of study.
It was during one of those frequent study sessions he stumbled upon some research out of Houston that showed a higher than average number of people developing diabetes in the Rio Grande Valley region of Texas. As well, there was an increased incidence of blindness. He was intrigued.
“Interestingly, other parts of the country were seeing the same increase in diabetes but not the same increase in diabetic-related blindness,” said Dr. Gonzalez, who quickly (and correctly) ascertained that the reason had to do with lack of access to retina care and lack of ongoing research in the Valley region.
Another interesting find – there was a higher than average occurrence of premature babies in this same region. And premature babies are at risk of developing retinopathy of prematurity, which if left untreated, can result in blindness.
For the babies, it was a higher incidence of young mothers in poverty condition, which often results in inadequate prenatal care, that was to blame for the higher-than-average incidence of retinopathy of prematurity.
“I had a real interest in developing a retina program to help combat the blindness that was unnecessarily occurring in the region and also in establishing a research program committed to raising awareness and reversing the trend,” said Dr. Gonzalez. That he was also fluent in Spanish was icing on the cake for an area of the state that has heavy Hispanic presence.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Gulf Coast Eye Institute has, one patient at a time, decreased the incidence of diabetes-related blindness by focusing on cutting edge research, screenings and treatments. Dr. Gonzalez has personally trained nine retina fellows from across the border and sent them back to Latin American countries, where the incidence of retinopathy of prematurity has decreased exponentially since the program’s beginnings.
Over the years, Dr. Gonzalez has systematically grown Gulf Coast Eye Institute into the thriving multi-location, multi-specialty practice that it is today. He has recruited the field’s best talent and has in place a powerhouse team of vision specialists to serve the generations of families who live in the Rio Grande Valley region of Texas as well as those who travel from across the border for vision care.
Gulf Coast Eye Institute has locations in Harlingen (two), McAllen, Weslaco, La Joya and Falfurrias and is a national leader in ophthalmology innovation and technology specializing in refractive surgery (LASIK) and the diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma, corneal disease, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and cataracts.