(HARLINGEN) – Dr. Jesus Rodriguez is a Rio Grande Valley native who left to follow his dream, but now is back to help the community he calls home.
Rodriguez graduated from Harlingen High School South in 2002. He recalls not giving much thought about his grades in high school. In fact, Rodriguez said he never aspired to be a doctor.
“At the time I didn’t know what options I had in terms of college or careers,” said Rodriguez. “I was that student who just wanted to get in and out. No honors or extracurricular activities. Yet I somehow graduated.”
The 33-year-old only attended Texas State Technical College after high school because he had a couple of cousins who were graduates from the college and they encouraged him to apply.
“TSTC was a major turning point in my life,” said Rodriguez. “I really grew up there and began to realize my potential. After each graduation I felt, and knew, I could do more. I didn’t want to stop growing.”
During his time at TSTC, Rodriguez was actively involved in Student Government Association and served as an intern for the Attorney General’s Office in Austin. It was through these experiences that his love for serving others was sparked.
“I ultimately knew I wanted to serve my community, but I didn’t know how,” he said.
Rodriguez remembers things turning around for him because of what one stranger told him.
“I was sitting in a Starbucks studying for my chemical environmental test and a man I had never met began talking with me and before leaving he told me, ‘You should be a doctor,’” said Rodriguez. “I’ll never forget that moment. It was a big leap, but it kick-started my medical school research.”
He attended the University of Texas at Brownsville and pursued a Bachelor of Science in Biology and transitioned to medical school at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.
Today, the husband and father of two, is back home and completing his third and last year of residency at Valley Baptist Family Practice Residency Clinic in Harlingen.
“Everything that happened since that day at Starbucks was so surreal,” said Rodriguez. “It was one door after another opening for me. I’m thankful to God, there’s no other way to explain my experience.”
Unfortunately, Rodriguez never got the opportunity to share his success with his father. On the day he was accepted to medical school his father was diagnosed with cancer and passed away not too long after.
“At times it was difficult for my dad to accept my decisions because I was so far away from home,” said Rodriguez. “But he tried to be as supportive as he could and now I get to help others.”
Dr. Bruce Liebert, founder and program director of Valley Baptist Family Practice Residency Clinic said Rodriguez is the future of the Valley.
“Dr. Rodriguez is upbeat, energetic and loves what he does. He has a bright future ahead,” said Liebert. “We work together every day and I can say he takes what he does seriously and he loves his neighbors, always working hard to give them medical access for a healthy life. If I could clone him I would. We need more guys like him.”
Rodriguez does not know what he wants to do or where he wants to go after his residency is complete, but he does know wherever he ends up practicing he wants it to be in the Valley.
He currently serves as a mentor for high school students in his hometown. Each summer he arranges job shadowing for them at various medical clinics in the RGV and he hopes to share his knowledge with TSTC students in the near future.
“I’m working right now in becoming a mentor for students from TSTC,” he said. “If it wasn’t’ for this college I don’t know where I would be. The college and its instructors gave me the foundation I needed to be confident in my abilities and improve my study skills. And here I am, a doctor who aims to serve others and be hope for those who need it.”
“If I can do it, they can do it,” he said.