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15 Physicians to form historic inaugural class
for UTRGV Residency at Knapp Medical Center in Weslaco


WESLACO – A new Internal Medicine Residency Program through the UTRGV School of Medicine will help bring additional doctors to the Mid-Valley area.

The UTRGV Internal Medicine Residency Program at Knapp Medical Center represents a major addition to a historic expansion of medical education into the Mid-Valley. This expansion began in 2017 when UTRGV opened the UTRGV / Knapp Family Practice Residency Program in Mercedes and Weslaco.

Under the UTRGV / Knapp Family Practice Residency Program, 18 family medicine residents are now rotating through the hospital in Weslaco as well as the UT Health RGV / Knapp Family Health Center in Mercedes. The new Internal Medicine Residency Program will significantly add to much-needed medical coverage in the Mid-Valley by bringing 15 new internal medicine physician residents to the area this year. Once the Internal Medicine Program is fully-staffed in the third year of the program (in 2022), there will be 36 internal medicine residents rotating through Knapp.

John E. Paredes, D.O., FACOI, FACP, Program Director for the Internal Medicine Residency Program and Assistant Professor of Medicine at the UTRGV School of Medicine, said the new residency program was recently accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, a national organization which accredits graduate medical training programs for physicians in the United States.

“Our mission is to train physicians of diverse experiences and talents to become agents of change, enabling our graduates to transform their communities by providing compassionate, comprehensive, evidence-based care for patients of all needs and backgrounds in the Rio Grande Valley and beyond,” Dr. Paredes said.

Located in Weslaco, Knapp Medical Center has been serving the healthcare needs of the Mid-Valley residents since 1962 and will serve as the primary training site for the new residency program.

“Our residents will participate in a well-rounded core curriculum in general and subspecialty internal medicine, with an excellent balance of ambulatory and inpatient experiences,” Dr. Paredes added. “They will assume complete responsibility for inpatient and outpatient care under the supervision of faculty who are expert clinicians. With a clinical environment that emphasizes learning and wellness, our residents will have ample opportunity to learn in a comfortable environment.”

Dr. Paredes said the goals of the residency program include “striking the ideal individualized balance of clinical autonomy and structured learning for each resident, to promote the development of academic medicine within the community, to nurture residents to become lifelong learners and to become actively engaged with the community that we serve.”

Dr. Paredes is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians (FACP) and the American College of Osteopathic Internists (FACOI), as well as a member of the Alliance for Academic Medicine. He received his Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, as well as a bachelor of arts degree from Rutgers University in New Jersey.

After a 16-year career in general internal medicine, Dr. Paredes joined UT Health Northeast-Good Shepherd in 2013 as a member of the core faculty and was the recipient of the 2014 Distinguished Teaching Award. In addition to teaching, he has been involved in various clinical projects with residents and medical students.

Rene J. Lopez, MD, FACHE, RRT, Chief Executive Officer for Knapp Medical Center, said the UTRGV Internal Medicine Residency Program at Knapp will help create more opportunities in the Mid-Valley for those who would like to receive training as internal medicine physicians.

“In addition, the educational and clinical components of this exciting project will be great assets for the entire Mid-Valley, thanks to our partnership with the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine,” Mr. Lopez added.

Andrew Neal Dentino, MD, FACP, AGSF, FAPA, FAAHPM, Professor and Founding Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at the UTRGV School of Medicine, said the expansion of UTRGV School of Medicine’s program is historic and has enormous potential.

“We are all so excited to be a part of its growth and development,” Dr. Dentino said. “With its strong social mission, with its creation of new residencies and fellowships, UTRGV Internal Medicine is poised to become a top-notch program for the next generation of internists and physicians.”

Dr. Dentino noted that UTRGV now has three “very unique internal medicine residencies, where our residents learn firsthand excellence in patient care, advocacy for patients and families in the Valley, and scientific and scholarly early career development.”

“At Knapp Medical Center (KMC) in Weslaco, our newest residency, we continue to make history, and are now able to have residency experiences which are unsurpassed in direct faculty attending contact and work with subspecialists,” Dr. Dentino added. “KMC, as an emerging academic health center, is poised to be our new leader in health care, and we are simply excited to be part of it.”

The UTRGV Internal Medicine Residency Program at Knapp Medical Center is a three-year program, led by Dr. Paredes with Gerardo Lopez-Mena, MD, serving as associate program director. The historic first class of 15 physician residents will include 12 first-year residents, two second-year residents, and a chief resident, as shown below:

• Kunal Jha, MD (Chief Resident)
• Jorge Duarte Solis, MD (2nd Year Resident)
• Denis X. Gutierrez, MD (2nd Year Resident)
• Himabindu Kolli, MD
• Maria Najam, MD
• Nazish Khan, MD
• Baron S. Ekeledo, MD
• Suneet Johal, MD
• Ashika A. Chacko, MD
• Aramide M. Tijani, MD
• Semenawit B. Burka, MD
• Oscar R. Zamudio-Herrera, MD
• Pooja Maknoor, MD
• Jamil Amlani, MD
• Shadi Jafari-Esfahani, MD
This first group of residents is an experienced group of physicians, who have served patients in various settings, including in challenging environments in other countries. Their varied experiences and backgrounds are expected to add a unique dimension to the first classes of physician residents who will help establish the program in the Mid-Valley.

The UTRGV Internal Medicine Residency Program at Knapp Medical Center will be housed at the Knapp Medical Plaza building, 1330 E. Sixth St., Suite 105 in Weslaco. For more information on the new program, please contact Cristina H. Cantu, Knapp Internal Medicine Residency Coordinator, at 956.296.1448 or 956.362.3548, or by e-mail at