100 doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine administered to SAISD faculty, staff members

STAAMP Allergy administered the vaccines Tuesday morning

This story was originally published by KSAT12 and can be found here.

 

San Antonio Report board welcomes new chairman in new year

San Antonio Report board welcomes new chairman in new year

This story was originally published by San Antonio Report and can be found here

The turning of the calendar brought a turn in leadership to the San Antonio Report’s board of directors. A.J. Rodriguez ascended to board chairman late last month, after John “Chico” Newman Jr. stepped down from that position and the board after more than five years.

The changes went into effect at the board’s Jan. 25 meeting.

Rodriguez joined the board in 2020, after briefly serving on the San Antonio Report’s Board of Community Advisors. Founding Vice Chair Newman, who served as chairman for a year, decided to retire from the board because he believes the organization needs a fresh set of eyes. Newman served on the board since its inception, when the San Antonio Report, founded in 2012, reorganized as a nonprofit in 2016.

The change in board leadership comes three months after the board named Angie Mock publisher and CEO of the nonprofit news organization, replacing co-founder Robert Rivard, who continues to serve as editor and lead columnist. Mock previously served as CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of San Antonio and had been a member of the San Antonio Report’s board since 2018.

“We are deeply grateful for Chico’s vision, dedication, and passion that led us from a blog to a thriving nonprofit news organization,” Mock said. “Equally, I’m excited about what the future holds with A.J.’s leadership. A.J. brings a wealth of nonprofit success and strategic vision to the San Antonio Report.”

Rodriguez joined the nonprofit Texas 2036 in September 2020 as the executive vice president. Texas 2036 is a nonpartisan organization that provides research-based solutions to make Texas a better place for all residents by the state’s bicentennial. Before that, he served as vice president of external affairs and on the executive leadership team of Zachry Group, a privately held construction and engineering business. Rodriguez also served as the deputy city manager for the City of San Antonio from 2008 to 2011.

This experience makes Rodriguez the best fit to lead the board of directors as the San Antonio Report continues to evolve, Newman said.

“He is the right person at the right time,” Newman said. “You really can’t be any better than the leadership of an organization. With the combination of Angie and A.J., the San Antonio Report has outstanding leadership.”

A longtime fan of the San Antonio Report, Rodriguez said he joined the Board of Community Advisors and then the board of directors because he truly believes in the organization’s mission.

“I’ve felt compelled to participate in any way I could to support the mission of the organization,” he said.

Retired SBC Southwestern Bell President Wayne Alexander is the vice chair and treasurer of the board, while San Antonio Report founder and Editor Rivard serves as secretary. Other board directors include Teach for America Chief People Officer Laura Saldivar Luna, attorney Brian Steward, former Rackspace Community Affairs Director Cara Nichols, and Dr. Erika Gonzalez, CEO, president, and co-founder of South Texas Allergy and Asthma Professionals. Kate Rogers, a longtime H-E-B executive and the former vice president of community outreach and engagement for the Charles Butt Foundation, rounds out the eight-member board.

As the new board chairman, Rodriguez said he wants to serve as a resource for the organization, to help grow and develop the San Antonio Report at “an increasingly rapid rate,” and to maintain the high standards of journalism it upholds. He also said he is excited to work with Mock as she carries the organization forward under her leadership.

“There’s nowhere to go but up,” Rodriguez said.

Looking back over the past five years, Newman said he could not agree more. If someone had told him five years ago that the San Antonio Report would be where it is today, he would have said that was “aspirational.”

“For a small group, we punch way above our weight,” he said.

Newman has watched the organization evolve from just a handful of people to a staff of 20, from a small startup to a professional organization. He said the shifts in leadership are part of the same evolution for the San Antonio Report and will help further its mission to build a more informed community.

“We should constantly be learning, evolving, and getting better – and we have,” he said. “The organization has come a long way in five and a half years.”

San Antonio Report Staff

SAN ANTONIO REPORT STAFF

This article was assembled by various members of the San Antonio Report staff. 

President Trump’s COVID-19 comments draw reaction from San Antonio coronavirus survivors, loved ones

‘It’s careless to put it mildly,’ says daughter who lost her mother

This story was originally published by KSAT12 and can be found here

SAN ANTONIO – “Don’t be afraid of Covid,” and similar recent statements made by President Donald Trump, despite his coronavirus diagnosis, were considered “careless, to put it mildly,” by Dr. Erika Gonzalez, who lost her mother to the virus in September.

Gonzalez said her father, who is dealing with the death of his wife of 51 years, is home from the hospital but relies on a tracheotomy to help him breathe because of COVID-19.

“I think that, obviously, my mom’s perspective would be you should be very afraid of the virus,” Gonzalez said.

The president and CEO of South Texas Allergy and Asthma Medical Professionals said it should be “a healthy fear, but definitely not disregard the true damage that this virus can do.”

Ron Wilkins, a noted musician and kidney transplant recipient who was finally released from the hospital in the summer after testing positive for the virus, said, “It’s not nearly as touch-and-go as it used to be.”

Wilkins is teaching trombone again at Texas State University.

“I’m more mobile and more able, but I still deal with a few aches and pains I didn’t have before,” he said. “Mentally, you know, there’s at times I’ll have these little gaps still in the thought process.”

Wilkins said he considers President Trump’s statements “a travesty.”

He said the President should tell the people who’ve already died, their friends and families, and those still suffering from COVID-19, “Don’t let it dominate your life.”

Gordon Hartman, the philanthropist and founder of Morgan’s Wonderland, said he was among the luckier ones.

Hartman said he was never hospitalized but was diagnosed with a “moderate” case of COVID-19. He later donated convalescent plasma to help others.

“I had an incredibly bad headache. I had chills, fever, coughs, a lot of typical things you hear that come with COVID,” he said. “It stuck around pretty aggressively.”

Hartman said one of the plumbers helping build Morgan Wonderland’s Camp died from COVID-19 despite being a 49-year-old man with no known health conditions.

“So to say that we can ‘look the other way’ or that ‘we’re past this’ or ‘don’t let it take control of your life,’ I would say is something that has to be definitely heard with much caution,” Hartman said. “It’s something that does need to be taken very seriously.”

Esperanza Hall residents to receive monthly COVID-19 tests

This story was originally published by The Mesquite (TAMUSA) and can be found here

Students living at Texas A&M University-San Antonio will receive monthly COVID-19 tests. Provided by the A&M System, 700 tests per month will be administered without cost to Esperanza Hall dorm residents.

Located in portable 101B behind the Central Academic Building and open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday – Friday, the administering of tests is overseen by STAAMP Allergy, a local service provider, while Curative Inc., a Los Angeles national testing company, provides confidential results.

According to Dr. Mari Fuentes-Martin, vice president of Student Success and Engagement, with over 100 dorm residents tested, the decision to require monthly tests was made the final week of August starting the 26th after the number of COVID-19 tests provided to the university was verified the second week of school.

The university wasn’t sure of how severe COVID-19 was going to be or how many tests they were being provided when school opened up. Fuentes-Martin said because of this uncertainty, wellness stations were set up to take the temperatures of new residents moving in.

“The reason we’re very interested in that population is that they spend 24/7 together, unlike a classroom,” Fuentes-Martin said. “…You’re just in such close proximity to each other for a very extended amount of time, so we wanted to be extraordinarily careful.”

Though there have been zero positive cases among dorm residents, the university already has accommodations in place for Esperanza Hall residents who test positive.

Positive residents will be moved to an isolated apartment and asked to quarantine in place, while those potentially exposed to them are tested and quarantined for at least 48 hours.

Fuentes-Martin says A&M-San Antonio’s main goal is to provide the safest environment possible through preventative measures. To develop these measures, A&M-San Antonio partnered with American Campus Communities, the operators of Esperanza Hall, to find the best way to approach the situation.

“We looked at their safety protocols, we looked at their signage, and we were able to blend a lot of those things and expectations that we had for safety with what they also had,” Fuentes-Martin said.

Education freshman Paige Borenheim started living in the dorms at the beginning of the fall 2020 semester and is witnessing the effects of COVID-19 on Esperanza Hall firsthand. Masks are needed on short trips outside rooms and visitors aren’t allowed; doorknobs and handrails are cleaned systematically and elevators have limited capacity.

While Borenheim has a roommate, she says most dorm residents don’t because many potential residents canceled their plans to move in.

“I know a lot of people who have no one to hang out with or they’re kind of just actually isolated with no one,” Borenheim said.

Along with these changes comes the monthly COVID-19 testing requirement.

“I have mixed feelings on it because obviously it takes a lot out of your day to go get tested,” Borenheim said. “I got tested a week ago, and they sent us an email the day before we had to get tested like, ‘by the way, you have to get tested every month.’ So there was a long line of 30-plus people in the hot sun for an hour plus.”

Borenheim says she now has conflicting feelings about how the process is currently being handled.

“I do like it,” Borenheim said. ”I know they’re trying to make sure no one’s contracting the virus or anything but at the same time it’s kind of like, I wish there was a better way to go on with it.”

Fuentes-Martin said she wants students to know that A&M–San Antonio is adapting and that the university has services to help deal with COVID-19 which can be found at https://www.tamusa.edu/community-safety-together/index.html

“If you need a laptop, or if you need Wi-Fi…The library’s open, advising is open, you know, so we’re here to help students,” Fuentes-Martin said. “We don’t want you all to think that we’re invisibly not here. We are here.”

This story was updated at 5:49 p.m. Sept. 11 to correct “Stamp” to “STAAMP Allergy” and to explain that Curative Inc. provides confidential results.

City officials collect more than 16,000 cloth face coverings to donate to senior centers

This story was originally published by NEWS4SA and can be found here

How to distinguish allergies and COVID-19 symptoms, according to a San Antonio expert

This story was originally published by MYSA and can be found here

The coronavirus pandemic has added a layer of uncertainty and anxiety to allergy season.

San Antonio residents are turning to professionals to make sure their symptoms are allergies and not something else.

Dr. Erika Gonzalez of South Texas Allergy and Asthma pointed to a couple of symptoms that can help people tell the difference.

“If they’re having a dry cough and fevers, then that definitely should clue them in that this is not allergies,” Gonzalez said. “It’s not necessarily COVID — it could be another flu or another virus — but it’s not allergies.”

Itching, on the other hand, is associated with allergies.

“If people are having itchy eyes, itchy nose, itchy throat, or even itchy ears — you know when your ears are itchy inside — that’s a very reassuring symptom that this is an allergy,” Gonzalez said.

The allergist noted that people should feel reassured if their symptoms improve after taking an antihistamine like Zyrtec or Allegra. If you have something other than allergies, you’re not going to feel better by taking those medications.

Gonzalez screens patients for COVID-19 and can test for the virus at her practice if they meet the criteria. So far, there have not been any positive cases.

The primary treatment for any allergy is to avoid the allergen, Gonzalez said. But that’s difficult as people seek any way to get a little fresh air under a stay-at-home order.

While Gonzalez would not recommend against going outside, she did advise people with allergies to avoid peak pollen times early in the morning. She also said taking an antihistamine 30 minutes before going outside can alleviate symptoms.

Plus, those masks we’re all being asked to wear will decrease our exposure to pollen, she said.

There has been plenty of pollen to avoid this year.

Gonzalez noted that oak allergen counts reached a peak of about 3,000 last week, the highest in at least 10 years. On Tuesday, oak — the pollen that leaves a yellow powder behind — counts stood at 2,380.

Expect the high pollen levels to stay with us through April, then dwindle in the beginning of May. The levels tend to rise two to three days after rain.

Gonzalez said people who suffer from allergies can start with over-the-counter medications, before moving to nasal sprays or allergy shots if necessary.

Hispanic Chamber’s Erika Gonzalez Wants to Keep Small Businesses Healthy

Hispanic Chamber’s Erika Gonzalez Wants to Keep Small Businesses Healthy

Hispanic Chamber’s Erika Gonzalez Wants to Keep Small Businesses Healthy

Dr. Erika Gonzalez, who leads a large allergy and asthma practice, is the 2020 San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Chair-Elect. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Dr. Erika Gonzalez joined the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in 2014 when she started her private practice and soon became involved in the group’s efforts related to health care and biosciences.

Starting in January, Gonzalez ascends to chairwoman of the board, a role she plans to use to amplify her voice on issues impacting the San Antonio business community, including health, and encourage others to do the same.

“I think it’s important for the Latino community to realize that our chamber was first started as the voice for the small-business community at a time where the Latino small businesses didn’t have a voice,” Gonzalez said. “I want to empower the community to realize that they have platforms and when we speak up, on whatever the issue may be, there’s a lot of power and a lot of change can happen with that.”

The daughter of immigrants – her dad was an Air Force veteran who served as a physician’s assistant and her mother was a dentist – Gonzalez grew up in San Antonio with two sisters and a brother. She attended Health Careers High School and St. Mary’s University before earning her medical degree at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston through the military’s Health Professions Scholarship Program.

Gonzalez’s career as a physician began at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, with a residency in pediatrics, then due to Hurricane Katrina, she went to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth in Virginia. She returned to San Antonio for a fellowship in allergy and asthma at Wilford Hall Medical Center.

“The military obviously is a great kind of opportunity to grow into yourself and to grow in leadership skills and abilities,” she said. “You learn by fire. You’re a young captain coming out of med school and they [tell you] ‘You’re in charge of this division now’ [even though you’ve] never done it in your life.”

Her nine years in the military taught the 43-year-old Gonzalez leadership, but it also inspired a sense of service.

“When I came out [of the service], I wanted to be making a difference in my own community, especially the community that I grew up in,” she said.

Gonzalez spent two years in private practice before being recruited to lead the allergy, immunology, and rheumatology division at Children’s Hospital of San Antonio for four years.

Those post-military medicine experiences were eye-opening for her, she said, as she watched her patients struggle with access to health care and affordability of treatment. She began working with the South Texas Asthma Coalition and the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District to develop a program called SA Kids BREATHE.

“So that really started to get to me and that’s when I started to become a lot more civically engaged,” she said. “And I’ve been blessed to be in a situation where I do have [practice] partners that are extremely supportive.”

Since 2017, Gonzalez also has served on the Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women.

As president and CEO of the South Texas Allergy & Asthma Medical Professionals (STAAMP) and its clinical research center, Gonzalez leads three clinic sites staffed with two other former military physicians. She sees patients in the clinic three days a week and uses the other two days for administrative work, chamber leadership, and community service.

Gonzalez sought guidance from the Hispanic Chamber when setting up the practice, and early on, she was asked to serve on a chamber panel discussion of health care disparities in the community. “I was impressed they were tackling that issue and that they were trying to raise awareness,” Gonzalez said of her decision to lead a chamber committee.

In January, she will succeed Chairman John Agather, who leads an investment company specializing in real estate, aviation, and the music business, and plays acoustic rhythm guitar in a rock band.

“Erika Gonzalez is a retired veteran and dedicated physician,” Agather said. “She has been a quick study as a chair-elect of the full range of activities that the Hispanic Chamber engages in.”

Melissa Aguillon, a board member and president of the public relations firm Aguillon & Associates, described Gonzalez as “extremely impressive.”

“She knows the business climate first-hand, supports economic growth and development, and will be able to advocate on behalf of Hispanics in business and Hispanic businesses,” Aguillon said.

Board member and chair advisor Hope Andrade believes young entrepreneurs will be able to relate to Gonzalez and she will serve as a role model for others.

“The community will certainly benefit from her leadership, and I think it’s only the beginning – I think she’s got a bright future,” said Andrade, who served as chairwoman 20 years ago. “I’m looking forward to being alongside her, watching her as she just goes from one position to another because she has those leadership qualities.”

Dr. Erika Gonzalez

But Gonzalez has her eyes fixed on the coming year, and said she believes the position will provide her a platform to be able to have a bigger, broader impact.

“I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t take advantage of the opportunity that was presented to try to use it to raise awareness with some of these issues that are kind of important, because health care contributes to workforce development,” she said.

However, the issue of a local paid sick leave ordinance is one that Gonzalez will have to negotiate carefully. She said that her professional and personal experience inclines her to be in favor of the ordinance, but the Hispanic Chamber has opposed it as a mandated benefit. Thus, as a chamber leader, she will represent members’ interests. The ordinance remains in limbo because of a lawsuit.

“That’s been one of the more conflicting things for me as a physician because I also understand the impact that can have financially [on businesses],” she said. “It’s hard when you look at some of these small businesses and realize that their profit margins can sometimes be so thin that you really want to set them up to succeed.

“Obviously we’re very pro small business and I think that the majority of our members feel that it’s not in the best interest of small businesses to have that put on them.”

In San Antonio, the Hispanic Chamber is one of multiple groups representing business interests, a fact some say splinters economic development efforts in the region.

“I would kind of argue that there might be a lot of chambers, but they all have a place and they all have a role and they’re all making a difference,” Gonzalez said.

In 2020, the Hispanic Chamber will be working to raise awareness about the census as well as encouraging members to vote in upcoming elections. But Gonzalez also wants to see the chamber take the lead on health matters.

“As a physician, if I don’t use this platform now to help further some health care initiative, then shame on me, [and] one topic that doesn’t get talked about a lot that I’m an advocate of is mental health awareness,” she said.

It’s a new era for the chamber. The board hired Diane Sanchez as president and CEO of the Hispanic Chamber in early 2019 when Ramiro Cavazos left to head the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Gonzalez isn’t the first physician in the chamber’s 90-year history to lead the board. But she is the first female physician who is also a veteran to serve as chairwoman.

Taking time from her busy practice is a priority for Gonzalez, who is also a mother to two young sons. “I think now more than ever with all the issues that are going on … health care needs to be represented at a lot of these tables where policy decisions are being made,” Gonzalez said.

“Historically, we haven’t had physicians … and so I think that most of us are realizing we need to be at the table to voice our perspective because it really does bleed into all of these other things that are crucial in our community.”

Shari Biediger

SHARI BIEDIGER

Shari Biediger is the business beat reporter at the San Antonio Report. 

Operation Rapid Relief: Dr. Joel A. Reyes, DO

This story was originally published by MD Monthly and can be found here

As a physician who frequently deals with life and death situations, it is hard to believe that Dr. Joel Reyes at one point did not even want to go into medicine. Born in Baguio City, Philippines, he grew up in a family where music was always in the air and politics, both Filipino and American, was the talk in the household. His mother was a teacher for several years, as was his father who was even the principal of a high school at one point.

Even though in 1983 they were successful owners of a restaurant and a poultry business, they decided to immigrate the whole family to the United States in order to give their children better opportunities.

Growing up in Northern California, Joel was heavily involved in music playing, first the flute, drums and then the clarinet. In middle school, his teacher gave him the school tenor saxophone, an instructional book, directed him to the practice room and told him to learn how to play. He played the saxophone throughout high school and considered music as a career until one summer when he was visiting his aunt in a hospital intensive care unit. This visit inspired him to look into medicine, and he decided, after graduating second in his class, that he would become a doctor.

He entered and successfully completed New York University’s pre-medicine program, but he could not quite quit the music. In 1998, he received a bachelor’s degree in music performance, Jazz/Contemporary Studies. After a year off and working in New York City, he moved to Kirksville, Missouri to attend the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine, now the A.T. Still University.  During this time, he received a scholarship through the Air Force’s Health Professions Scholarship Program. After two years in Kirksville, he successfully completed his clinical medical school training in various hospitals in St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri, subsequently receiving his Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree in 2003.

His first official assignment through the military was his pediatric residency at Keesler Medical Center, an Air Force hospital at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi. That is where he met his future wife, Dr. Erika Gonzalez, who was also a pediatric resident in the program. In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina swept through the Gulf Coast, and as a result, the hospital and program was shut down. After picking up the pieces and moving, he finished his residency in the Naval Medical Center – Portsmouth in southeast Virginia.

In the summer of 2006, he started a pediatric critical care medicine fellowship at the Texas Children’s Hospital, but after a year, Reyes transferred to the program in the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio in order to be closer to his wife, whom he married in 2007. He completed his training in 2009 and was back in uniform as one of two pediatric critical care physicians in the whole U.S. Air Force.

Reyes served as a pediatric intensivist at Wilford Hall Medical Center and then the San Antonio Military Medical Center, and eventually, he took over as the medical director of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at SAMMC from 2011 to 2015. Starting in 2011, Reyes began working at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon on his free time.

staampallergy_joelreyes_headshot_advertorial_1

In 2012, he was deployed to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan to serve at the Craig Joint Theater Hospital. Although he was there primarily to take care of the civilian Afghan children caught in the crossfire, as an intensivist, he was also able to assist in taking care of the critically injured American and NATO ally troops. He returned home after six months, just in time for the birth of his second son. A year after returning from his tour, Reyes was also moonlighting at the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, and he continues working with that group as a pediatric intensivist and has an appointment as an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics through the Baylor College of Medicine. In 2015, after 12 years of service, he separated from the military at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.

In addition, he started working at the PICU in El Paso Children’s Hospital at the end of 2015, which he finds especially rewarding because of the huge need of pediatric specialists in that city. He also now helps with the operations of South Texas Allergy & Asthma Medical Professionals, an allergy clinic located at Westover Hills.

Dr. Reyes is very active with the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and sits on the Executive Board as the chairman of the Healthcare & Biosciences Committee. He also recently joined the ARTS San Antonio board of directors and sits on the Artistic Planning committee helping bring great performers and artists to the city. He is passionate about exposing more children to the arts. He currently lives in San Antonio with his wife Dr. Erika Gonzalez-Reyes and their two 4- and 6-year-old sons, and he continues to love playing music,  especially making up songs with his boys.

 

For more information visit www.staampallergy.com or call 210.616.5385. STAAMP Allergy is located at 10447 TX-151 in San Antonio, TX 78251.