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The Rio Grande Valley Diabetes Association 17th Annual Gala “Dancing with the Stars of Hidalgo County” , Nov. 2nd

The event will be held November 2, 2024, at the Mission Events Center.

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Pictured (Left to Right) Dr. Juan Ortiz, Amanda Esquivel, Annabelle Palomo, Annail Vela, Judge Sergio Valdez, Anabel Espinosa, Mario Lizcano, Cesar Dominguez, Samantha Ramirez,  Dr. Dustin Luebbers, Blake Holland, and Joe Luis Sanchez. Courtesy Images
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The Rio Grande Valley Diabetes Association (RGVDA) is excited to announce its 17th annual Gala, “Dancing with the Stars of Hidalgo County,” scheduled for November 2nd at the Mission Events Center. The event promises an impressive lineup of local stars ready to dance for a cause.

Joe Louis Sanchez is a funeral director at Kreidler Funeral Home in McAllen. He has worked in death care for nearly two decades. He also holds accreditation from the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice where he earned the designation of Certified Funeral Service Practitioner. Aside from his professional vocation, he is currently in his third term serving the Mission Housing Authority Board of Commissioners where he is presently the Chairman of the Board


Cesar Dominguez is an Operations Specialist III at IBC. He handles many different tasks within the bank. Aside from working in operations administration, he is also very involved with marketing initiatives for IBC Bank. Cesar is involved with different community initiatives for organizations like: MD Anderson, Catholic Charities of the RGV, NHPO, RGVDA and many others. One of his passions is financial literacy and he visits various schools in the Valley to educate students. I graduated from Nikki Rowe High School in 2007 and earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Our Lady of the Lake University. 

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Annail Vela attended St. Michaels Nursing School and completed 2 years of internal medicine care, 4 years of obstetrician and gynecology care, and 3 years as a school nurse. Annail wanted to do more for the community and advocate for her patients. In 2019, she joined PAD Specialists. She served as a Business Development Associate for 3 years, which allowed her to promote awareness, help reduce amputation rates in the Rio Grande Valley, educate the community, and assist the healthcare population in actively looking for Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD). In 2022, she was promoted to Business Development Executive, which allowed her to be a mentor and lead the company’s business development department. The company has 19 clinics across the state of Texas, 2 in New Mexico, and 1 in Arkansas that she has the privilege of guiding. She found her passion as a PAD advocate and, within the company, obtained a mission to salvage limbs in the Rio Grande Valley.


Samantha Ramirez is a Senior Diabetes Care Specialist with Novo Nordisk. She was born and raised in Brownsville. After attending and graduating from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in communications, Samantha made her way back to the Rio Grande Valley and began working in the pharmaceutical sales industry in 2016. Aside from her work with Novo Nordisk, Samantha is passionate about giving back to the University of Texas through participation in the Texas Exes Association, donation of scholarships to incoming freshman and volunteering at events for admitted students in the RGV. 


Dr. Dustin Mathias Luebbers, a board-certified and fellowship-trained colon and rectal surgeon, specializes in minimally invasive and robotic surgical treatments. He expertly manages conditions such as colon and rectum cancer, hemorrhoids, diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease, and much more. 

He earned his medical degree at the American University of the Caribbean and was among the first class of residents to complete a general surgery residency at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV)- Doctors Hospital at Renaissance (DHR). 

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 During his residency, Dr. Luebbers earned numerous accolades, including being named Best Surgery Resident and being selected by his peers as Chief Resident for two consecutive years. Dr. Luebbers continued his advanced training with a fellowship in colon and rectal surgery at the prestigious Brown University, his top choice, an Ivy League institution. 

He is known not only for his continuous dedication to education and success in robotic surgery but also for his exceptional bedside manner. He is highly regarded for taking the time to connect with his patients and collaborating effectively with his clinical and hospital teams. 

Dr. Luebbers currently works with and is a partner at Texas Digestive Specialists.

 He embraces the community spirit of the Rio Grande Valley, where he sees significant opportunities for development and values the concept of “La Familia.”


Anabel Espinoza is a dynamic and driven professional, currently spearheading regional sales and marketing initiatives for Regency Integrated Health Services. With 13 years of experience in the skilled nursing facility industry, Anabel has demonstrated an exceptional ability to craft compelling marketing strategies, boost sales performance, and cultivate strong client relationships across diverse markets.

Her keen understanding of market trends, combined with her innovative approach to problem-solving, has consistently led to surpassing company targets and achieving remarkable business growth. Anabel’s leadership and motivational skills have inspired her team to reach new heights, making her a respected and influential figure within the organization.

This year, Anabel is thrilled to showcase another of her passions – dancing – by participating in the highly anticipated “Dancing with the Stars” event. Her dedication, rhythm, and energy on the dance floor mirror her approach in the business world, promising a captivating performance that will leave the audience spellbound.


Dr. Annabelle Palomo, a Rio Grande Valley native, brings an extensive academic and professional background to the dance floor. With a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate in education from the University of Texas-Pan American, Palomo has over 17 years of experience in various educational roles. Her passion for education led her to establish the Rio Grande Valley College (RGV College) in 2008 and the Meraki Institute of Beauty and Wellness (Meraki Institute) in 2019, where she serves as CEO.

Palomo’s contributions to the fields of Nursing, Allied Health, and the Beauty Industry are remarkable. She has dedicated her career to maintaining high educational standards and advocating for the success of both children and adults. Her efforts have significantly impacted countless students and continue to shape future generations.


Dr. Juan Ortiz, I was Born in Bogota, Colombia where I graduated as a physician. I spent the beginning of my career working in the Amazon jungle, after which I served as a cruise ship doctor for several years. Working as a physician in outlandish settings allowed me to gain fruitful insights to the world around me. 

Destiny brought me to the US. I trained in Internal Medicine, and did fellowships in   Pulmonary, Sleep and Critical Care Medicine in Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, Soon after, in 2002 I came to the Valley and have worked since in these specialties. I practice in different hospitals and belong to the Valley Intensivists Pulmonary and Sleep Specialists in McAllen. 

Being from Colombia, a Caribbean country, salsa and merengue have been part of my life. I will enjoy Dancing with the Stars, as my contribution to diabetes causes, a disease that has been in my family and touches the lives of many people. Any intervention at any level that decreases the appearance or progression of diabetes will have a major impact on the health of the RGV, which is one of my passions. 


Blake Holland is a Weekend Sports Anchor/Reporter for KVEO Channel 23 and CBS 4. The St. Louis, Missouri, native is new to The Valley, but eager to explore and call the area his home away from home.

Blake graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in journalism in 2022, and previously worked in the sports department at NBC-affiliate, KOMU 8, in Columbia, Missouri. As a former high school athlete, he loves to spend his free time shooting hoops, enjoying 18 holes of golf, or getting a good workout in the gym. Blake also enjoys time at the beach, so you can find him exploring South Padre and all it has to offer.


Also participating: Mario Lizcano, Rick Salinas, Rudy Zamarano , and  Amanda Esquivel, Judge Sergio Valdez, and Slyvia Cantu.

The RGVDA is a local and independent not- for- profit diabetes association for Hidalgo County. This event allows programs and services to be tailored specifically for the area and guarantees that all funds generated are used for the residents of Hidalgo County. The RGVDA’s mission is dedicated to the prevention of diabetes and its complications through educational services, early detection, and awareness. For information or to become a sponsorship, call the RGVDA office at (956)318-1900.

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