Women in Medicine – Highlighting our Clinical & Administrative Staff

The successful outcomes of our patient’s rely heavily on a collaborative team effort. Visit any hospital, operating room, doctor’s office, or medical school lecture hall, and you’ll find a diverse group of individuals with varying backgrounds, all brought together with the deliberate intentions of caring for the health of others.  As we celebrate women in medicine month to acknowledge and bring awareness to the gender disparities in medicine, we would be remiss to not acknowledge the women encompassing our clinical and administrative staff, who help support the Department of Cardiothoracic & Vascular Surgery at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.  The exceptional work done by our teams in the operating room, at the bed side, and in our offices, has heavily contributed to the twenty year success of our department. The thousands of patients who have benefited from their work does not go unnoticed, and the month of September, provides us all the opportunity to reflect on these contributions.

We asked many of our nursing and administrative staff about their experiences and work in healthcare, as well as any advice they offer for other women pursuing a career in healthcare.

Jody Thiele

Jody Thiele, AGACNP-BC

Jody Thiele, AGACNP-BC, Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

Jody has worked in healthcare for 19 years, and spent five years as a nurse practitioner. Jody began her career in medicine after recognizing her interest and passion for caring for others. “I have always loved taking care of people and learning how the body works.  I started as a bedside nurse in the CVICU and fell in love with this patient population.  I truly enjoy working with the surgeons and staff.  It has been amazing to see and be a part of the breakthroughs that were being made with treatment for aortic aneurysms,” she says.

What she enjoys most about her role? “I love the challenge of seeing a new patient and figuring out what is wrong with them and the figuring out the best treatment.  I like how our group is always challenging the way things are done and finding new and improved ways to approach a problem.”

How she overcomes challenges and stays positive:  “Bad outcomes are a part of the business and is never easy to deal with, but I know that the surgeons and myself will always do everything we can for these patients’, and push the envelope to help them.”

Advice for pursuing a career in healthcare: “Work hard at having a good work-life balance.”

Rebecca Black

Rebecca Black

Rebecca Black, Administrative Assistant

Rebecca has worked in healthcare administration for 18 years. She has worked for some of Houston’s biggest institutions including MD Anderson, Women’s Hospital of Texas, and CHI St. Luke’s.  As an avid learner, Rebecca seized an opportunity to join the team at UTHealth where she could build on her work experience and knowledge.

What do you enjoy most about your role? “I enjoy the constant learning in my work. Things are continually evolving in this position, which allows me to learn new skills and enhance the skills that I already possess. I also have a great work-life balance which I appreciate.”

How do you overcome challenges in the work place? “I am a person who is not afraid to ask for help if there’s something I don’t understand. I try to remain positive, and I pace myself.”

Advice for women pursuing a career in healthcare? “Put your best foot forward and move towards your goals no matter the obstacles that may be in the way. Think of it as an obstacle course. Although there may be things that will slow you down on this journey, continue to stay focused, and navigate through to reach your career goal. Just don’t give up in the process.”

Pam Neighbors

Pam Neighbors, RN

Pam Neighbors, RN, BSN, CVRN, Nurse Manager

Pam has been working as a nurse for 29 years! She has worked in Shock Trauma, Burn Units, Endovascular Radiology, though “always managed to come right back to cardio-vascular surgery, my passion!” she says.

What made you get into medicine: Nursing was not my first career choice; my first choice was to work and fly the “friendly skies”!  But my sister was a nurse and she talked me into going to nursing school.  It took a little over three years to complete my first degree and become a Registered Nurse.  It was a decision I have never regretted!

What she enjoys most about her role: I have always enjoyed taking care of my patients and their families.  I believe it is a privilege to be able to care for and comfort people when they are sick.  Most patients are beyond thankful and appreciative of the few extra minutes I spent with them explaining their new blood pressure medication; providing a quick nebulizer treatment to the asthmatic in respiratory distress; or just holding their hand!  Those are the moments that make it all worthwhile.

How she overcomes challenges in medicine: Being a nurse has been challenging.  In the medical field you see hardships a lot. But I know that for every bad day I experience, there is always a great day to follow that picks me right back up!

Advice to women who are pursuing or starting a career in medicine: Nursing is very hard work and is often exhausting and frustrating!  But you will have the satisfaction of knowing your hard work and presence is very important to your patients!

Lisa Degarmo

Lisa Degarmo, APRN, ACNP-BC

Lisa DeGarmo, APRN, ACNP-BC, Structural Heart Nurse Practitioner 

Lisa started her career as a registered nurse in 2005, before becoming a nurse practitioners in 2010. While starting her training to be a nurse, the first surgery she was able to observe was a CABG. “I thought it was fascinating. The ability to watch a beating heart, stop it, fix it, and then start it back again was awe inspiring to me,” she says.

What she enjoys most about her role:  “As cliché as it might sound, I really do enjoy helping people.  Being in a hospital can be one of the most stressful and sometimes traumatic times for a person. I enjoying helping people when they are scared or alone.  Sometimes the conversations are difficult.  However, when you make a patient feel like you actually see them as a person and not as another diagnosis, they are forever grateful and appreciative.”

How she stays positive and overcomes challenges in medicine: “There are times that no matter how much we prepare or train or anticipate, bad outcomes still happen. I think to stay positive, you learn to be resilient. It takes practice. To clarify, I don’t mean to suggest that resiliency is to not feel, or to harden your emotions; it’s just the opposite.  When you have bad outcomes, you allow yourself to be vulnerable. You allow yourself to be disappointed, hurt, and sad.  Then you give yourself grace, knowing that in the end, you gave it your all.  When you can stand in front of a family and say to them that you did everything you could to help but it wasn’t enough and then they hug you back and say “I know. It’s Ok. Thank you.” It is powerful, and humbling.  It makes me want to keep giving my best.  I also firmly believe that when you are off of work- be off to rest and recharge. We are all human and need to give back to ourselves.”

Advice to women who are pursuing or starting a career in medicine:  “Believe in yourself. Know that you always have something unique to offer. NEVER STOP CARING!”

Kelsie Kiser

Kelsie Kiser

Kelsie Kiser, Perfusionist

Kelsie has worked as a perfusionist for 12 years. After learning about the profession from a family friend, she chose to pursue it as her career. “After finishing college, I wanted to find a field that challenged me and I could see myself enjoying for the rest of my professional life,” she says.

Best part about her role in medicine: “I enjoy the challenges being a perfusionist brings.  I find that I always need to be on my toes and am continuously thinking about how I should plan on responding in different situations; always thinking about what ‘could’ happen.”

How she stays positive: “I credit my ability to stay positive and overcome challenging situations to our team.  Having worked at other institutions, I’ve found that there is a strong sense of respect and cohesiveness within our perfusion team here, as well as the cardiac program as a whole. This work environment encourages me to learn from each situation and to determine how I can improve clinical care.”

Advice for women pursuing a career in medicine: “My best advice for women going into perfusion, would be to really examine the work-life balance. Cases can be stressful and the workload can be unpredictable, but perfusion can be an incredibly rewarding profession.”

Trenise Hines

Trenise Hines

Trenise Hines, Administrative Assistant

Trenise has worked in healthcare for 16 years and has since developed a great passion and interest in vascular surgery. “It’s amazing what can be done with a teeny tiny part of the body,” she says. Trenise is most satisfied working with a great team, “especially experts like Dr. Coogan. It always puts a smile on my face to see that our patient’s feel confident and that they are in good hands.”

How she overcomes challenges: “I always find comfort in talking to my coworkers and getting advise from them on how they would handle difficult situations and challenges.”

Advice to women pursuing a career in healthcare: “Go for it! It is very rewarding to see how just a simple kind gesture can put a smile on a patients face and turn their whole day around.”

Pearl Adams portrait

Pearl Adams

Pearl Adams, Education Program Manager

Pearl applied for her role nine years ago after the suggestion from her mother. “I have worked in healthcare for nine years after applying for a job. “When I was young, my mother worked for UT Physicians Rheumatology; around that time, I was in a four wheeler accident and was seen by the team at UT Physicians. I remember the staff and doctors making feel like family and taking care of me. Ten years later, I decided to give the medical field a try,” she says.

Best part about her role: “I enjoy working with the wonderful administrators, faculty, residents, and fellows.”

Advice to women pursuing a career in medicine or healthcare: “To the women who are interested in the medical field, I recommending finding what you love to do. There are may opportunities in the medical field; Doctor, Research, Nursing, Medical assisting, Coding or medical education. I certainly have.”

emily murphy, np

Emily Murphy, APRN, AG-ACNP – BC

Emily Murphy, APRN, AG-ACNP – BC, Nurse Practitioner

Emily began working in healthcare in 2012, though her interest in medicine began at an early age. “My grandfather was a physician.  As an OBGYN, he would tell me stories of how being a part of the happiest moment in a person’s life brought him the utmost joy. Because of medicine, he was able to forever impact a person’s life.  His legacy inspired me to pursue a career in healthcare,” she says.

What she enjoys most about her role: “As an NP, I enjoy merging my passion for cardiothoracic surgery along with a genuine love for people.  Caring for a patient is more than just caring for them during their perioperative period.  It is about fostering relationships with people and instilling a trust that will not only guide them through their surgery but also encourage them as they recover postoperatively and return to normal daily life.  Giving someone new life through cardiothoracic surgery is a special feeling.”

How she stays positive and overcomes challenges: “In cardiothoracic surgery, sometimes we encounter challenging situations. It is our job and our duty to care for our patients in the best way; however, the outcomes are not always favorable in our eyes.  As a Christian, I know that even when the outcome is not favorable in our eyes, it is perfect in His, and that gives me hope for when we are faced with difficult situations.”

Advice to women pursuing a career in medicine: “One day, you will impact someone’s life in a powerful way because you chose to pursue a career in medicine.  You’re patients will forever be grateful of your hard work.”