In 1951, Dr. Richard De Young was a medical resident. He started working with children at Houston's Shrine Clinic and made his first trip down to the Rio Grande Valley. The Shriners formed a clinic down there to treat children in the barrios. Back then, the biggest problem was polio. De Young and several other physicians began traveling down to the Valley to bring the polio vaccine and modern treatments to the underserved area.
"I was a resident at the Shrine in 1951 and 1952 and at that time the staff there consisted of about five or six gentlemen. None of them were professional children's orthopedists, they were all general practicing orthopedists and they came from different parts of the country."
That was close to 60 years ago. Dr. De Young is now 91 years old and had to retire several years ago. Now his son, Dr. Stephen De Young, carries on the clinic work. These days, the problems range from scoliosis to cerebral palsy.
"There wa definitely kids who had a need for medical care. And the nice thing is we've seen that transition. I've personally been a part of the Shrine Hospital since 1982 and there's no doubt that the majority of the kids that we used to see over the years had polio. And we don't see that any more."
Busloads of children come to the clinic from throughout the Valley and even from rural parts of Mexico. The doctors see as many as one hundred children in a day.
"If you saw the kids that come across, they come usually in large buses. There's no question that the medical care they get is very poor and to get the kind of medical care they're receiving, I know it's a tremendous feeling for them. All you have to do is see the smiles on their faces when they come in. And also to take a child who cannot walk and to do some very simple procedures and make them walk is a very tremendous reward."
Both Drs. De Young say working with the Shriners Clinic and helping those kids is one of the most gratifying aspects of the job. Dr. Stephen De Young said it just seemed right to follow his father's lead and keep serving at the Valley clinic. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.