UT Health San Antonio uses grant to expand long COVID care for rural patients in South Texas

UT Health San Antonio is the only place in Texas to receive the grant

SAN ANTONIO – Experts say many people may not recognize the symptoms of long COVID, but that could change thanks to a $5 million grant awarded to UT Health San Antonio from the Health and Human Services Department.

Monica Verduzco-Gutierrez, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at UT Health San Antonio, operates a long COVID clinic there offering assessments and treatments.

Using the grant from HHS, she hopes to expand that care, especially for those in rural communities.

A study from California found that many people don’t know they’re experiencing long COVID.

“They looked at farmworkers who had had COVID and it had been 61% of them were dealing with long COVID. And so, this is something that we can see even in our own populations who also do labor work,” Verduzco-Gutierrez said.

She said some underserved communities might not know about the symptoms and it can be difficult to access the right kind of care.

“A lot of times they have to work, or it’s hard for them to get out of work to be able to get to a physician. So then already not getting physician care and then realizing that something’s going on or having to take time off work,” Verduzco-Gutierrez said.

That’s where the grant money helps people living in South Texas.

UT Health San Antonio is the only place in Texas awarded this money.

Verduzco-Gutierrez hopes to educate more people about the symptoms that occur after a COVID infection, like lingering fatigue, shortness of breath and migraines.

“We still don’t have, you know, a magic pill that’s like, let’s reverse everything,” Verduzco-Gutierrez said.

Over the next five years, the money will also be used to teach physicians how to better detect and treat long COVID.

“I hope for five years. We’re also, you know, referring patients to clinical trials and that there’s treatments for it that really help them,” Verduzco-Gutierrez said.

About the Authors:

Gavin Nesbitt is a photojournalist and video editor who joined KSAT in September 2021. He has traveled across the great state of Texas to film, conduct interviews and edit many major news stories, including the White Settlement church shooting, Hurricane Hanna, 2020 presidential campaigns, Texas border coverage and the Spurs.

Sal Salazar is a photojournalist at KSAT 12. Before coming to KSAT in 1998, he worked at the Fox affiliate in San Antonio. Sal started off his career back in 1995 for the ABC Affiliate in Lubbock and has covered many high-profile news events since. In his free time, he enjoys spending time at home, gaming and loves traveling with his wife.