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 is the business beat reporter at the San Antonio Report. 

Best Immunologists in San Antonio

This story was originally published by Kev's Best and can be found here
Dr. Dice graduated from the University of Notre Dame and then received his medical degree from the University of Virginia.  He entered military service with the Air Force completing a residency in Internal Medicine at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio and a fellowship in Allergy & Immunology at Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio.  He had a distinguished military career and achieved the rank of Lt. Colonel before leaving for private practice.  Dr. Dice loves to teach and has lectured on a variety of allergy-related topics at both the local and national level. Dr. Dice is certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology and the American Board of Internal Medicine.
Allergy Testing, Patch Testing, Penicillin Testing, Rush Immunotherapy, HAE Treatment, Oral Challenges, Allergy Shots, Sublingual Immunotherapy
LOCATION: Address: 10447 TX-151, San Antonio, TX 78251 Phone: (210) 616-5385 Website: www.staampallergy.com REVIEWS: The staff is always friendly. Dr. Dice is really great. He listens to the individual needs and knows how to talk the children. He really works with the parent as well in planning for your child.” – s de luna Dr Dice is awesome! Friendly staff too! Thank you for helping my son!” – Robmisty rodriguez

Cedar allergies to reach fever pitch this winter in San Antonio and South Texas

This story was originally published by San Antonio Express News and can be found here
Recent rains, especially following a long, hot summer, have benefited the Edwards Aquifer and lawns alike. But in addition to a bountiful blessing of mosquitoes (tamped down by last month’s cold snap), the rains also left the ash juniper trees in the Hill Country locked and loaded with pollen sure to make cedar fever sufferers miserable for the next several months. “We’re bracing for it,” said Dr. Erika Gonzalez, medical director of the South Texas Allergy and Asthma Medical Professionals, which treats plenty of allergy sufferers. “Cedar season usually runs from mid-December to mid-February, but this year the first cedar pollen was detected on Dec. 1, two weeks ahead of schedule. And we expect it to last longer than usual, too.”
While the highest pollen counts ever recorded in the area occurred about 10 years ago, when they topped 90,000 grains per cubic meter of air, the count already has spiked to 18,000 several times this season. To put that in perspective, Gonzalez said people start experiencing allergy symptoms — congestion, runny nose, itchy, watery eyes — when the pollen count reaches 20 or so. That’s 20, not 20,000.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recently named San Antonio one of the fall 2018 allergy capitals of the country. The city came in fourth overall, following McAllen, Louisville, Kentucky, and Jackson, Mississippi, based on pollen and mold counts, allergy medication usage and the availability of board-certified allergists. Not long ago, that would have been bad news for Chris Willis. A “lifelong” allergy sufferer, he’s been getting allergy shots at the Gonzalez’s far West Side allergy clinic for about three months, and already his symptoms are diminishing. “I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t sleep, I had a sore throat and I sometimes missed work,” said the 32-year-old IT worker. “I’d have allergies all year, but cedar fever season was the worst.” To protect yourself this winter, it’s important to understand the enemy. So here are some things you need to know about cedar fever. First, despite the name, it’s not caused by cedar trees nor does it cause a fever. Instead, cedar fever is an allergic reaction to the microscopic pollen launched into the air by the male Ashe juniper tree. Prevailing winds can send these tiny grains hundreds of miles. If they land on a berry produced by the female tree, the result is often a baby ash juniper. If they land in your nose, they can make your life torture. That’s right, the symptoms that make you more miserable than those post-holiday credit card bills are nothing more than the unintended consequence of a complex woodland mating dance. While ash juniper is a Texas native, back in the day it was restricted to canyon areas and along creeks, according to Jim Rooni, head of Central Texas operations for the Texas A&M Forest Service. “Because we don’t generally have wildfires anymore, these trees have extended their range across about 12 million acres of the Texas Hill Country,” Rooni said. As development spreads ever deeper into the Hill Country, he said he finds it funny when homeowners clear their property in the belief that eliminating the trees will eliminate their allergies. “Cedar fever isn’t a local problem, it’s a regional problem,” he said. “I tell these homeowners to drop the chainsaw and visit the drug store.” That’s where allergy sufferers should start the fight against the fever. In recent years, new drugs and strategies have become available that not only can prevent symptoms, they can actually cure the allergy. Over-the-counter antihistamines such as loratadine (brand name Claritin), cetirizine (Zyrtec) and fexofenadine (Allegra) target all the symptoms of cedar fever except the stuffy nose. For that, a saline nasal spray or neti pot can help flush out the nasal cavity. Because these drugs aren’t as effective once symptoms have set in, it’s best to start early. “We tell people to begin taking their meds at Thanksgiving, even if they don’t have symptoms, and to not stop until Valentine’s Day,” Gonzalez said. More effective are nasal steroid sprays, such as fluticasone (Flonase), which has been available over the counter since 2015 and, by prescription, mometasone furoate (Nasonex). These do more than treat the symptoms, they help prevent the allergic reaction from taking place. It can take 10 to 14 days for steroid sprays to reach their maximum efficacy, so it also makes sense to start using them before you start feeling symptoms. Gonzalez recommends against long-term use of nasal decongestants such as oxymetazoline (Afrin). While they’ll clear up congestion in the short term, after about three days of use they’ll cause what’s known as a “rebound effect,” in which the congestion gets worse than it was initially. For those truly hindered by cedar fever, allergy immunotherapy can often cure the condition, although this can take three to five years. “The full course takes a while, but you may start seeing results in as little as five months,” Gonzalez said. Fourteen-year-old Andrew Palacio has been getting shots at the clinic for eight months and said he’s already seeing benefits. “My allergies would make my eyes so puffy I couldn’t open them,” Andrew said. “I had headaches and would sometimes even miss school.” He said he hopes things will continue to improve, although the cedar pollen already is so thick that he’s had to take an occasional Zyrtec. “I just needed an extra little boost,” he said. “But I’m feeling much better. And those results are nothing to sneeze at. This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Ashe juniper.

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.
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