Discover Your Island

A&M-Corpus Christi Nursing Students Join Forces with A&M System, Army, to Care for Colonia Residents

June 23, 2017

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LAREDO, Texas – A group of more than 40 students and faculty from the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi College of Nursing and Health Sciences are volunteering to provide a concentrated effort of care to those who need it most. From June 19-29, these Islander students and faculty, along with members of the Texas A&M Colonias Program and more than 200 U.S. Army personnel, are in Laredo, in Webb County, to provide healthcare, improvements to infrastructure and other services to the improve the quality of life for those living in Colonias.

Services provided by military personnel are done as part of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Innovative Readiness Training (IRT), a civil-military program that builds mutually beneficial partnerships between U.S. communities and DoD to meet training and readiness requirements for active, guard and reserve service members while addressing public and societal needs.

“This IRT is a wonderful opportunity for our students to work with an underserved population and give back to the community,” said Dr. Mary Jane Hamilton, Founding Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. “This project is a culmination of two years of preparation and hard work.”

Colonias are rural subdivisions or communities that lack some of the basic living necessities, such as sewer systems, electricity and safe and sanitary housing. Due to substandard drainage, these areas remain flooded for weeks after a heavy rain and those living in the Colonias live submerged in toxic waste. There are an estimated 3,000 to 10,000 residents in the Colonias in Webb County who will receive care during this two-week period.

Those volunteering health services as part of the IRT program – including more than 40 Islander students and faculty and more than 100 medical professionals – will operate out of four different clinics in Laredo.

“Nursing and Health Science students will be taking classroom experience and translating it to the real-world experience with underserved populations,” said Hamilton. “The students will work with the Army Health Care Providers to deliver primary health care, vision screening, and dental care. In addition, the students will learn military health care missions and the delivery of health care education and methodology.”

Along with health services being offered during the two-week IRT, the U.S. Army Reserve Engineer Services will receive practical training while they work to improve a two-mile stretch of roadway at one Colonia community. The road currently becomes unusable during storms, forcing children to stay home from school and families to miss work.  Additionally, soldiers will spread five acres of soil at another Colonia community sports complex, giving children a safe place to participate in extracurricular activities.

Meanwhile, soldiers from the U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers Service are providing personnel to distribute surveys to an estimated 500 households across nine different Colonias. The collected data will be given directly to Webb County officials to assist them with developing and delivering solutions to enhance the quality of life for Colonia residents.

Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp and A&M-Corpus Christi Interim President and CEO Dr. Kelly Quintanilla will visit Webb County on Tuesday, June 27, to take part in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding. This memorandum, also signed by Lt. General Jeffrey S. Buchanan, Army North Commanding General, and Stephen D. Austin, Assistant Chief of Army Reserve, will facilitate a strategic and mutually beneficial relationship with intentions to continue these IRT efforts multiple times a year.

To learn more about the Texas A&M Colonias Program, go to http://Colonias.arch.tamu.edu/.