Anecdote: Dr. Carlos Godinez – Dedication, Perseverance, and Energy

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Mega Doctor News

By Roberto H. Gonzalez

For those that never had a chance to read this article, it was published on February 1987. When I was getting ready to meet with Dr. Godinez, a good friend, I just walked through the back of my office on 614 South 12th, crossed the alley to Broadway St. and went to his office at Valley Night Clinic. My office is still in the same building; we were good neighbors. Dr. Godinez and I had planned our meeting and he was excited to do it, so was I. Dr. Godinez is in heaven and I am glad I was able to meet and work with him to get this article done. The story was published when I was the publisher of McAllen City Magazine over 31 years ago. I know you will enjoy it!

Dr. Carlos Godinez

Original Article: “There’s never been a more exciting time to be in Medicine.” with this insightful quote from the Valley Night Clinic’s Dr. Carlos Godinez, we ended our conversation with him. Regretfully so, and all too soon. For almost a full hour prior to his final statement, we had been listening with acute attention as Dr. Godinez recalled some events from his past.

When one asks a man such as Dr. Godinez to describe his background, one should have plenty of recording tape, a comfortable chair, and have somebody put all calls on hold.

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Born in Pharr, Texas in 1937 to F.B. Godinez and Adelina Draeger Godinez, both now deceased, Carlos Godinez is one of the rare individuals of society who knew as a child what he would do when he grew up. He would be a Doctor just like his father, a Physician, who participated as a Medical Officer, in the Mexican Revolution under Francisco (Pancho) Villa.

In pursuit of advanced medical training in 1925, the elder Godinez arrived in Houston, Texas where he met Adelina Draeger, of German parents, fell in love and married. A short time later, they relocated to the Rio Grande Valley to a small town called Granjeno.

As a child, Doctor Carlos Godinez and his siblings spoke Spanish and German, learning English in the first grade of school. His father, as an educated man, desired for his children to speak fluent and proper Spanish, and so began the tradition of Godinez children spending their years of higher education in Guadalajara, Mexico to master the Spanish language.

This desire of the elder Godinez was not meant to put the local Spanish language in a bad light. On the contrary, according to Dr. Godinez, “I think it’s inevitable in a mixed culture,” he says, in reference to the Tex-Mex dialect of Spanish predominantly spoken throughout the region, “In fact, I think it’s part of our culture.”

In our discussions with the people of the Valley, McAllen City Magazine always hopes to learn something from each individual.

From Dr. Godinez, we learned a lesson on Spanish surnames. When a Spanish surname ends in “-ez”, it is the equivalent to the Anglo ending of “-son”. Therefore, Gonzalez is the son of Gonzalo, Martinez is the son of Martin and so forth.

On the name “Godinez”, Dr. Godinez says, “My father told me his grandparents were originally from France, they had come over when the French were occupying Mexico under Maximillian. The name was originally ‘Godinet’. After the French left Mexico, my grandfather stayed. He had come over as a volunteer in the French Army. He stayed, and he married a Mexican woman in the state of Jalisco, and in the next generation they changed to ‘Godinez’.”

After finishing High School in Mexico, determined to be a Physician, Dr. CarlosGodinez had hoped to continue his education in Guadalajara, but that idea was quickly spurned by his mother. So, on the instruction of Mrs. Godinez, he returned to the Valley and entered Pan American University. Two years later in 1957, he transferred to Baylor University and earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1959. Upon application, he was accepted at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, where he graduated in 1963 as a Medical Doctor.

It was in Galveston that he met his wife, a nursing student, Judith Roberts in 1961. After graduation in 1963, they were married. Dr. Godinez and his new wife then moved to Ft. Worth, where Dr. Godinez served his internship at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Returning to McAllen to practice Medicine after his internship for two years, Dr. Godinez found himself wanting to return to school in pursuit of surgery training, and thus began his surgery internship at the University of Texas Medical School in 1966, in San Antonio, his wife’s hometown. And then, in the words of Dr. Godinez, “I came back to McAllen, and I’ve been practicing here ever since.”

With five children, anyone would be proud to claim, Dr. Godinez glows as he speaks of them.

”My oldest boy, Charlie” says Dr. Godinez, “graduated from Harvard with honors in June of 1986, and he is going to the United States Navy Aviation Officers Candidate School. He’s going to be a Jet Pilot. His ambition and dream is to be an Astronaut.” A four-year letterman on the Harvard Football Team as a center, we should be hearing great things of Charlie Godinez in the years to come.

Roxanna Godinez, twenty-one years old, is a senior at Baylor University studying Business. “Her plan,” says Dr. Godinez, “Is to be a Hospital Administrator.” Ricardo Godinez is studying Pre-Law at the University of Texas at Austin, and Dr. Godinez’fourth child, Tony, is at Texas A & M in College Station studying Premed, presumably to follow in the footsteps of his successful father. The youngest Godinez son at sixteen is attending prep school in Georgia, as an outstanding representative of the Godinez family.

Dr. Carlos Godinez and wife Judy Godinez at a banquet sponsored by The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine in Lubbock, Texas.
Dr. Carlos Godinez and wife Judy Godinez at a banquet sponsored by The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine in Lubbock, Texas.

Dr. Godinez’ main involvement in extracurricular activities of the medical field has been with the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners. This agency regulates the practice of Medicine in the state of Texas.

The three main functions of this board, according to Dr. Godinez are, “It gives the examination of Licensure. We license all Doctors that want to practice in Texas, and we conduct the annual registration of all physicians licensed in the state of Texas, currently about 43,000and, we conduct all the disciplinary actions against physicians… that have gone wrong or violated the law with a patient.

Appointed to the board for the first time in 1973 by Governor Dolph Briscoe, Dr. Godinez has been reappointed by Governors Bill Clements and Mark White and is serving as its President until 1991. “I’ve become,” he says, “somewhat of an expert in Medical Licensure Matters.”

Dr. Godinez, through his accomplishments with the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners, has proven himself on the National Level as well. Elected President of the Federation of State Medical Boards in 1984. “I think I’m the first Texan who has ever achieved that”, says Dr. Godinez of his position with the National Federation.

Although participation on the State and Federal Levels of the Medical Profession has earned Dr. Godinez the respect and recognition of his peers, he has also been instrumental in bringing about many important changes and advancements in the process of local medical care as well. In the eyes of the average Valleyite, it is these local improvements which will earn Dr. Godinez their high esteem.

It was during his tenure as chief of staff of McAllen General Hospital that Dr. Godinez recognized the need for full-time emergency room coverage with physicians actually assigned to the Emergency Room. This was not standard operating procedure at the time.

He campaigned successfully to have Doctors on the Hospital Board, which until then was comprised only of businessmen. A scholarship program was initiated for needy nursing students and it was during this period that a Radiation Therapy Center was started. A trip to Harlingen was the status-quo for cancer patients from McAllen to receive their treatment, up until this time.

As an active member, civic affairs have kept Dr. Godinez involved in the McAllen community. He also volunteers his time as team physician for both McAllen High Schools.

During his vast travels across the U.S. as President of the Federation of State Medical Boards, Dr. Godinez saw a trend of health care occurring which he shared with his medical practice partners upon his return to McAllen.

This trend was characterized by medical attention centers which were open to the public when most doctors’ offices were closed. It was because of this eye-opening experience that the Valley Night Clinic was born. “We did a survey of our patient population,” he says proudly, “And we found out that people are looking for medical care and the first thing they want is quality. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, or what your name is, or what your socioeconomic background is, quality is first and foremost. Then, the very next thing is convenience, they want to be able to go to the doctor when it’s convenient to them, and the third thing is economics.”

Dr. Carlos Godinez at his office of Valley Night Clinic on Broadway St. in McAllen Texas. Photo by Roberto Hugo Gonzalez January 1987
Dr. Carlos Godinez at his office of Valley Night Clinic on Broadway St. in McAllen Texas. Photo by Roberto Hugo Gonzalez January 1987

It is the third fact that Dr. Godinez seems to be aiming at with the Valley Night Clinic. “Is it economical to come to a Valley Night Clinic? “we ask. “Yes, it is,” according to Dr. Godinez, “because we can provide the service at a much lesser rate than say a Hospital can because we don’t have the overhead a Hospital has.” This service includes Out-Patient Ambulatory Health-Care by the Valley Night Clinic staff.

“At first there was some criticism towards the Valley Night Clinic,” says Dr. Godinez, “I’m not sure exactly why, but we did have some criticism. That faded away fast because we assured the other doctors that we weren’t out to steal any patients, we were merely offering a service.” In addition, he said, “In fact when we see a patient in the clinic that has an established physician in the community, we always refer them back to that doctor for a follow-up.

“Well as we all know, a good thing is easy to recognize, and as the saying goes, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” The Valley now has several night clinics currently in operation. “Ours has been successfully operating four years now,” he says, “We’re going on our fifth year.”

Through our visit with Dr. Godinez, we are convinced that our hospital system nationwide is meeting the challenge of today and is preparing for tomorrow. With modern advancement in the hospitals’ ability to research and perform highly technical medical feats, today’s patient is reaping the benefits of our society. On operating efficiency on the business level of hospitals, Dr. Godinez believes some are operating more efficiently than others, and that justifies private industries venture into the hospital field.

As far as the government’s involvement in healthcare, Dr. Godinez feels without a doubt, that there is a need for the government to be involved. “Government has to be involved in providing health care for the indigent,” he says. “I think they need to be more involved. Unfortunately, the Medicaid and Medicare programs of the federal government put so many restrictions on patient qualifications, that you wonder how effective it really is.”

With Medicare to assist senior citizens of America, and Medicaid designed to provide indigent health care, hospitals are being forced to use their facilities as efficiently as possible due to the many restrictions. Under this policy, all patients are the beneficiaries.

The medical field promises to be a great advantage for the McAllen area in particular and the Valley in general. Dr. Godinez envisions this area as becoming the main medical center for the entire Southwest Texas region, as well as for Northern Mexico. With a growing medical community comes the benefit of healthcare-related construction. As examples, Dr. Godinez points out the new developments underway near the McAllen Medical Center, such as a professional complex, bank, hotel, and pharmacies.

On the subject of socialized healthcare, Dr.Godinez feels this Nation’s free enterprise system is the best available for all the people. He points out the fact that so many patients from countries with social health care, paid for by their government, are coming to the United States for treatment of their ailments.

The Valley’s health is, on the whole, in good shape. Tradition and culture notwithstanding, Dr. Godinez believes it is up to us to maintain our personal health. “I think with food”, he says, “the only thing that can hurt you is quantity,” in respect to this region’s diet.

Health care is a matter of education as are most issues important to communities. We are all becoming more aware of our own health and taking it upon ourselves to maintain it. Dr. Godinez sees the general populous out walking more, limiting our beef intake, and eating more fish and vegetables. Dr. Godinez credits the school system with recognizing the need for education on better health for our children.

Dr. Godinez is optimistic when speaking of Cancer and AIDS. “Aids is a dreadful disease,” he says, “But it is not very common. I think with research you will see a treatment for AIDS, either an active treatment or a passive immunization.”

Dr. Godinez, at left, with Dr. Denton Cooley, of Houston, Texas cardiac surgeon and special guest, and United States Senator Lloyd Bentsen, also of Houston.
Dr. Godinez, at left, with Dr. Denton Cooley, of Houston, Texas cardiac surgeon and special guest, and United States Senator Lloyd Bentsen, also of Houston.

The Pap Smear is credited by Dr. Godinez to reducing the number of cases of cancer of the cervix, and he believes a major breakthrough is on the horizon for the treatment of diabetes. His optimism is contagious, and the McAllen community has great reason to be proud of its contribution of Dr. Godinez to the medical profession.

Unlike most doctors, Dr. Godinez does not indulge in golf. His recreation instead is farming, gardening, and fishing. “I like to be in touch with nature,” he says.

With all his activities to occupy his time and energy, one wonders if Dr. Carlos Godinez doesn’t have 48 hours in his days. We certainly appreciate the time he afforded-us for our conversation and we wish him and the Valley Night Clinic the very best in the future. MCM

(NOTE) The sudden death of Dr. Carlos D. Godinez after a boating accident in the Laguna Madre marked the end of a life devoted to public service and medical care. Godinez’s tragic death came four days before his 56th birthday on October 10, 1993. Obituary published by the Monitor on October 13, 1993.