Regional Academic Health Center, Harlingen
Leonel Vela, M.D., M.P.H.

Leonel Vela, M.D., M.P.H.

Regional Dean and Professor

Office # 3.116.02
(956) 365-8610

Dr. Leonel Vela, a native of the Lower Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, is the founding Dean of the Regional Academic Health Center (RAHC), a campus of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA). In this capacity he directs the medical education and biomedical research components of the RAHC. As its first Regional Dean, he has overseen the development and establishment of the RAHC campuses during their formative years. He holds an academic appointment of Professor with Tenure in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the UTHSCSA School of Medicine.

Dr. Vela received his undergraduate degree in Medical Microbiology from Stanford University and his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine. He completed post-graduate studies at Harvard University where he received a Masters of Public Health Degree. Dr. Vela completed post-graduate training in Preventive Medicine. While at Harvard he was the recipient of a Kellogg Fellowship in Health Policy and Management. Dr. Vela received additional training in epidemiology at the CDC in Atlanta, and a fellowship in Community Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. He is board-certified in Preventive Medicine and is a Diplomate of the American Board of Preventive Medicine.

Prior to his current appointment at UTHSCSA, Dr. Vela was the Vice President for Rural and Community Health at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC). At TTUHSC, Dr. Vela was the first holder of the Marie Hall Endowed Chair in Rural and Community Health. Additionally, Dr. Vela was the Medical Director for Telemedicine and Editor of the Texas Journal of Rural Health.

Dr. Vela has served on several state, national and international committees addressing tuberculosis, diabetes, migrant health, border health and telemedicine. He has been involved in publications and professional presentations addressing these topics, including public health and emerging infections on the border. He has participated in several professional organizations and previously chaired the National Advisory Council on Migrant Health for the U.S. Secretary of Health. Dr. Vela has received various awards and was honored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Migrant Head Start Branch, as recipient of the Plate of Bounty Award. He was also chosen by the Consumers’ Research Council of America to be included in their “Guide to America’s Top Physicians”.

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