Dr. Patricio Montiel’s path to becoming a physician was not a straight line, but that doesn’t keep him from thinking it was always God’s plan.
One early sign came in 2002 when he was working as a disaster recovery case manager after Tropical Storm Allison submerged homes in the Houston area.
When the water receded, poor families moved back into homes covered in filth and mold. On one visit he made to a family’s home, he saw a baby in a crib in repulsive conditions. He couldn’t help but think the help his organization gave the baby’s family would be a Band-Aid, and that troubled him.
In his next job, Dr. Montiel worked as a field coordinator for a foundation that sought to find and treat people with undiagnosed glaucoma. Focusing on high-risk populations, foundation workers sometimes located 20 to 30 people a day who didn’t know they had glaucoma. He worked alongside physicians who were able to stop the progression of the eye disease that would otherwise have left patients blind.
“I just thought this was really cool. It wasn’t a Band-Aid. We were changing that person’s life,” he said. “There are a million different ways to serve humanity. I knew the way I’d be most satisfied is being a physician.”
Dr. Montiel began work Aug. 1 at Mercy Clinic Primary Care – Hope Campus. The clinic is part of Riverview Hope Campus, which offers comprehensive assistance to homeless residents. Some of the services include overnight accommodations for people and their pets, daily meals, education and job training, and medical services.
Although it’s expected that many Hope Campus residents will be seen at the clinic, it is open to anyone in the community. The clinic’s services include treatment of minor illnesses and injuries, flu shots and other immunizations, general medical and wellness examinations, and other services.
Dr. Montiel is an enthusiastic supporter of Hope Campus and its mission to address acute needs but also help people pursue a path to self-sufficiency. From his experience working with vulnerable populations, he knows it will take time to build trust. For example, he said the first two homeless patients he saw expressed disbelief that Mercy really followed through with opening the primary care clinic.
As a Catholic, Dr. Montiel knew he wanted to work for a faith-based organization such as Mercy. His delayed path to medical school makes him a more well-rounded and empathetic provider to people who need him, he said.
“If you told me at the beginning of my journey that this is where I would be now, I wouldn’t believe it. I almost feel like I had a dream of this place and now it’s become real,” he said.
Dr. Montiel earned his M.D. at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock and finished a residency in family medicine at UAMS-West in Fort Smith this past summer. He is fluent in Spanish. New patients are welcome and can make an appointment by calling (479)431-3425.