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This I Believe

KUHF-Houston Public Radio’s “This I Believe” with Dr. Randall Urban

Dr. Urban is a professor and chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Dr. Urban believes that as good as his profession is at curing disease, it ought to be as skilled at preventing it.



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Dr. Urban hails from Victoria and is the son of a grocer.  Dr. Urban’s father ran a grocery story in a working class neighborhood.  On occasion, customers down on their luck were quietly helped out by Dr. Urban’s father and young Randy learned life lessons by watching his father help those who needed a break. 

Dr. Urban graduated from Texas A & M’s Medical School and after graduating, he worked in several places, even interning at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.  He said after his nose hairs froze one winter, he knew he should come home to Texas.  Dr. Urban says his decision to accept the offer from UTMB was accepted after he visited the campus.  He fell in love with it and its people.  Dr. Urban says UTMB has a soul and it attracts faculty and students who recognize the uniqueness of the oldest medical school in Texas.

The only thing better than curing a disease, is preventing it.  That’s the focus of Dr. Randall Urban’s essay for KUHF’s This I Believe.
“No matter our age, ethnicity or financial status — chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension or heart disease have touched us, or those we love.  As a doctor who sees patients and teaches medical students in an academic medical center, I know the devastating affect these diseases can have on families and even entire communities. 

Doctors and researchers in academic medical centers have developed advanced programs in the management and treatment of chronic diseases.  In fact, billions of dollars in medical health care are invested in improving the lives of patients suffering the advanced stages of their chronic disease.  And therein lies the problem. We are experts at the end stages of chronic disease. 

I believe we should do all in our power to not let it get that far.  I believe it is time to change the way academic medical centers deliver health care.

While we should continue to use resources to care for those with end-stage chronic disease, we must begin to shift our resources and focus on partnering with communities to prevent chronic disease.  This shift will save money — but more importantly — it will save lives.

At UTMB, we have a simple model that works.  This model is based on the principle that each community is different and has unique needs specific to its environment.  We meet with community leaders to understand their specific needs and to develop a customized plan.  We then assemble education teams for heart failure, diabetes and other chronic diseases.  Using tele-health technology, we educate community leaders about prevention, provide support materials and advanced medical education.  As the prevention network grows between communities, it serves as an ideal laboratory to begin to answer research questions about chronic disease.

The daunting challenge for this model is that it does not generate immediate revenue.  But without a strong program of prevention, we face staggering suffering, loss of life and billions of dollars in costs. 

As a nation, we must be committed to putting resources into prevention programs.  This impacts not only Texans, but our nation, and people across the globe.  The time has come to prevent this very real health crisis.  This I believe.”