December 15, 2021
When did you join UTHealth? What brought you here?
Born and educated in Manila, Philippines, I accepted an early business assignment in China’s capital. There, I met my American husband-to-be, an executive in the oil and gas industry. When his assignment was completed, we married and came to Houston. I first joined UTHealth in 1991.
Tell me about your work history here.
I was a Residency Coordinator II in the Department of Internal Medicine Residency Program which, at that time, was headed by the late Dr. James Willerson. I spent 9 years there until we moved to England in 1999. I will never forget Dr. Willerson’s kindness. I was proud to have worked for him. Notwithstanding his professional stature, Dr. Willerson was approachable and kind to everyone. It was also a pleasure working for Dr. Mark Farnie and becoming directly involved with the house staff.
I was grateful for the confidence he had in me for assisting with the rotation schedule of faculty, residents, interns, and students. (I’d also like to add that Dr. Farnie was my son’s favorite pediatrician. My little boy was always fascinated by his colorful cartoon neckties!)
That’s why it was difficult leaving my job to move to England with my family because of my husband’s career. So, when we returned to Houston a few years later, I immediately sent job applications to different institutions around the Texas Medical Center. I didn’t hear back from UTHealth right away, but the office of Dr. Michael DeBakey at Baylor College of Medicine contacted me. I went for the interview and was hired on the spot. Quite honestly, however, it was a somewhat isolated position, and I soon decided to apply to UTHealth again. This time, I received a call from Gloria Horner, who was the DMO for the Institute of Molecular Medicine at that time. I’ve been with IMM since then.
When I went back after my brief employment with Baylor, IMM was preparing to move to our new building from the old Texas A&M building at the corner of Holcombe and Pressler. The Sarofim Building was beautiful and modern. It was an exciting time! Within the IMM, I worked with administration then was transferred after a few years to Texas Therapeutics Institute headed by Dr. Zhiqiang An. I’m still enjoying working for TTI. Dr. An has been generous, caring, and kind. He’s a brilliant and dedicated scientist, and I try my best to just let him keep doing what he does while I assist Dr. Ningyan Zhang in the everyday running of the lab. After 6 years, I’m still with him to this day and still in awe of all his accomplishments.
What are you most proud of accomplishing?
The hardest and most satisfying thing I have ever done was when I was asked by then-DMO Steve Selby to coordinate the moves of all six centers at the IMM. They had to be ready to go as soon as they were moved. I had to make sure that everything was working in all the labs, floor by floor. From purchasing additional lab furniture to installing signage outside the Immunology Center lab to coordinating with Facilities on new security doors, knocking down walls, and rearranging the office and lab rooms, etc. Claire Brunson was of invaluable assistance to me.
The most important thing that helped me survive all the chaos at that time was having a checklist of what had already been done, was still to be done, and doing follow-ups. I would have been lost without that old notebook of mine!
What do you enjoy most about your work?
This is my favorite of all the questions. I like helping people and working for the departments that afforded me that opportunity. I worked for Internal Medicine Residency Office for many years. It was such a rewarding experience.
My fondest recollections were arranging the schedules for interns and residents who came from different parts of the world and whose parents would arrive in town for a brief visit! Or, interns and residents who wanted a change in their rotation for religious reasons that did not allow them to do certain activities during a certain day, etc. There were even times when these young physicians had a rough day and sought to speak about it with someone, confident in the fact that it was something that was never going to be shared with anyone.
Working with the lab staff, especially newly hired ones from a different country, was a special privilege.
Having originally come from another country, I was well aware of the challenges of transitioning to another country and culture. As well, inducting them to UTHealth procedures gave additional opportunities to help, or simply being somebody in the office who would welcome them with a smile.
The one thing I always keep in mind is I’m there to make these incredibly talented scientists’ jobs easier for them. Therefore, they can keep their focus on science, submitting grants, and discovering the next cure for human disease. I feel very humbled to be part of that process in making some small contribution.
Why have you stayed?
I stayed with UTHealth because I sincerely believe that it’s the best institution you can ever work for. If you are an employee of UTHealth, then you are family. It’s such a compassionate, understanding organization that is so very family-oriented. It had helped me when my son was growing up. Being late a little because I had to drop off Shaun (my son) at the daycare, or leaving a little early so I can pick him up when he was not feeling well and running a temperature. For all the kindness and understanding I’ve been given through the years, I wanted to make sure that I give back by being the best I could be in my job. It’s no coincidence that a lot of UTHealth employees have been with the University for decades. We are happy here, and we are not invisible to the Administration. They see us, and they understand.
When you are not at work, how do you spend your time?
I’ve always loved to travel! I even had my own column in the monthly employee newsletter at my previous job at an international company in Manila. It focused on the different classes and training our computer salespeople were constantly attending all over the world. It was all so fascinating to me. I called my column Travel Bug.
My siblings and I enjoy visiting different countries and understanding their history and culture. (My sister Ching loved it so much, she became a travel agent!) Living in England and Beijing opened my eyes to the beauty of the world. My siblings and I were supposed to travel to different countries in Europe last year, but we had to cancel because of Covid. We’re hoping that we can reschedule it for next year, God willing.