As Americans celebrated National Physician Assistant Week (Oct. 6-12), Villarreal was feeling especially good about her choices in life as she took a break from seeing patients at the Community Action Health Center, 301 S. Hillside Drive.
Villarreal was spending another day using her education and skills to head off health problems and keep the citizens of Bee County healthy.
Although she was born in Corpus Christi, Villarreal grew up in Skidmore and graduated from Skidmore-Tynan High School in 1985.
Since then, she has been working to achieve the position she now enjoys in the health care field.
As a P.A., Villarreal’s duties include the practice of medicine as a nationally-certified and state-licensed professional, under the supervision of a medical doctor.
She performs physical examinations, diagnoses and treats illnesses, orders and interprets lab tests, performs procedures, assists in surgeries, provides education and counseling and makes rounds in hospitals and nursing homes.
Villarreal’s fascination with medicine started when she was five years old and her parents got her a plastic doctor’s bag from Kmart.
“From then on, that’s all I ever wanted to do,” she said. “After that, my parents always fostered that idea.”
The real education started at what was then Bee County College. She enrolled in the school’s X-ray and ultrasonography program and then transferred to Del Mar College.
There, she earned her associates degree in applied science in radiologic technology and diagnostic medical sonography.
She started practicing as an X-ray technician at what was then Beeville Memorial Hospital.
It was during that time that Villarreal returned to BCC to get her basic studies out of the way before moving to the University of Texas-Pan American at Edinburg to start working on her P.A. degree. She completed that in 1996 and worked at various clinics until 2004, when she moved to Naples, Fla.
In 2010, Villarreal came home and started working here again.
Last month, she joined the staff at the Community Action Health Center.
“It’s been great,” she said of the experience she has had since joining the clinic.
The clinic is available to all area residents. It accepts Medicaid and Medicare patients and those covered by private insurance.
The facility is best known here for providing women with low incomes high quality screenings and diagnostic services for breast and cervical cancer.
“The entire staff is very knowledgeable,” Villarreal said. But that knowledge is a must for a clinic that helps patients find the resources they need to get healthy and stay that way.
Villarreal said one resource she would like to see is a clinic pharmacy. The clinic here is one of 12 the Community Action Corporation of South Texas (CACOST) operates in this part of the state.
“Some of the clinics have their own pharmacies,” Villarreal said. “I’d like to see that here.”
CACOST clinics provide several services in the communities where they are located. Those services include primary health care, school-based health centers, breast and cervical cancer control programs, Title V maternal, child health and dental services and Children’s Health Insurance Program community based outreach programs.
The organization also provides Head Start and home-delivered meals in some communities.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.