March 10, 2021
When did you join UTHealth? What brought you here?
I was born and raised in Houston, and I first found out about UT by watching Earl Campbell – playing football with the Oilers and with The University of Texas. I started with UTHealth back in 1986 – the day the doors of UTHealth Harris County Psychiatric Center (HCPC) opened. I was working for MHMRA at the time – I worked in the kitchen. They had a miniature psychiatric hospital at Hillcroft and 59, and when the county was getting ready to open here, they gave us the first opportunity for jobs and came to interview us.
Tell me about your work history here.
When I first started at HCPC, I worked in transportation. Back then, we had a fleet of 24 vehicles. We were picking up patient medical records, traveling to Texas City, Beaumont, and doing blood runs to Memorial Hermann. We were delivering 24/7 around the clock. Dr. Faillace was the head honcho back then, and I remember Mattress Mac was just getting started with his furniture business and he helped to donated furniture to our adolescent wing. Eventually, transportation started to downsize because everything became electronic and there wasn’t as much of a need for it. Ron Valinda was the director of maintenance, and he and others took me under their wings. I didn’t know anything about maintenance, but now plumbing, changing out ballasts, it comes easy now. In Facilities Management, we do a bit of everything across the building. I’m part of the ride-out team when we have emergencies, like a hurricane – and we are better off with a hurricane than with an ice storm! During the recent storm, we were without water for three days and had to flush out ice machines and water lines, it was very difficult. Luckily, we have a 72-hour generator that kicked on.
What are you most proud of accomplishing?
Just learning different skills throughout the years. My mom was strong and worked hard, and I want to be like her. She always wanted me to find a good job. One of my strongest memories at work was when I was the first employee to win the Employee of the Year Award back in the ‘90s.
How has the university changed since you first joined?
I will have been with the university 35 years in December, so I have seen a lot of changes. The new building is going up next to HCPC, and it’s going to be really nice, but this here is my home. I can honestly say that I know 2800 S. MacGregor Way as well as I know my own home, and I take pride that I have been a part of the growth of HCPC. The technology is a lot better now, everything is up to date. I’ve seen staff come or go – there are about six or seven of us who are still here from when I first started. The medical center is so big, and it is still building. I can’t tell it from downtown now.
Why have you stayed?
I love what I do, and I enjoy the staff I work with – we are one big family. In fact, my daughter works at UTHealth, so literally it’s in the family.
When you are not at work, how do you spend your time?
I enjoy watching sports and going to the park to walk a couple miles. I also like watching movies and old shows and being at home. Someday I know I will retire, but I’m so used to getting up every morning and coming to work.