February 03, 2021
When did you join UTHealth? What brought you here?
I began working at UTHealth in April 2003. I worked in several different industries prior to UT. I was in banking for seven years, a large CPA firm for one year, and the oil industry for 12 years. Prior to joining UT, I worked at William’s Gas Pipeline. I was there for 12 years and was laid off in December 2002. I received a very generous severance package and was able to take my time looking for the perfect job. The mother of one of my son’s friends told me she worked at the UT Medical School and how great it was, so I narrowed my search to jobs at UT. I interviewed at the School of Dentistry and the Medical School.
Tell me about your work history here.
My first job at UT was in the Department of Surgery, Division of Organ Transplantation. I was the executive assistant to the director of Liver Transplant. Working with surgeons was quite different than working with corporate executives. After my first week, I thought, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ While in Liver Transplant, I volunteered with the American Liver Foundation and helped to organize the Liver Walk in Houston each year. Our division also hosted a monthly Liver Lecture at Trevisio that I coordinated. I really enjoyed organizing both of these events. Then I was told that our division would be moving to Physicians of Texas, a Memorial Hermann Affiliate, and my position was going, too. I left UT in October 2006 to work at Physicians of Texas. After roughly a year and a half, I was not happy and wanted to return to UT.
In 2004, Dr. Charles Cox operated on my oldest son. I would see Dr. Cox from time to time in the hospital, and he always asked about my son. As I began my job search to return to UT, I ran into Dr. Cox and shared with him that I wanted to return to UT. He told me that Pediatric Surgery had an opening and I should apply, so I did! In June 2008, Dr. Kevin Lally, chairman of Pediatric Surgery, hired me as his senior executive assistant. I was excited to be back at UT and especially excited to be in Pediatric Surgery. As you can imagine, Dr. Lally has a really busy schedule that requires a lot of managing, and when we are not in a global pandemic, he travels both domestic and international. I spend a fair amount of time managing his schedule and organizing his travel. I also coordinate a few fun events for our department. We are active in getting donations for the March of Dimes each year. In 2014, we held our first ever Surgeons Bake Sale for the March of Dimes. Our surgeons and pediatric anesthesiologists make baked goods for us to sell in the leather lounge. We have done this for the past six years and the bake sale earns around $2,000 each year for the March of Dimes in addition to donations we get for the walk. We were sad that we were not able to have a bake sale in 2020, but we are hopeful that we will in 2021. The administrative team also volunteers at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital each Halloween and Christmas to host a festival for the children who are in the hospital. Both of these events are a lot of fun, and we love to see all of the kiddos.
What are you most proud of accomplishing?
After roughly two months in Pediatric Surgery, I was asked if I would like to take over the Fellowship program. I had no idea what this would entail, but I love a good challenge. So I accepted the challenge and have been the Fellowship coordinator for the past 12 years. We have had 13 fellows graduate from our program, and I have been the coordinator to 11 of the graduates. I feel that I have a unique bond with each of my graduates. I love getting birth announcements, wedding announcements, or just a friendly text from our graduated fellows. Working with the fellows and keeping our Fellowship Program in compliance with the ACGME makes me feel like maybe I am making a difference in the future of pediatric surgeons. In 2016, I became a certified training administrator of graduate medical education (C-TAGME).
How has the university changed since you first joined?
When I started working at UT in 2003, there was still a lot of construction/repairs from Tropical Storm Allison happening in and around the University. My office was on the Jesse Jones Library side of the building, and I watched as the little chapel with all of the stained glass was dismantled. Now when you look outside it is hard to imagine where the chapel was. The landscape in that area has changed a lot with the addition of the Sarofim Pavilion and a new parking garage.
One big change that I have experienced during my career at UT is that 15 years ago we communicated via phone calls on “land lines” and email. Now I get as many text messages from our faculty and staff as I get emails. I never dreamed that I would use my cell phone to communicate with our faculty and staff as much as I do. I think the biggest change though occurred this year, we rarely meet in person, and all of our meetings are virtual. I miss in-person meetings.
One thing that has stayed constant at UT is the energy I feel every time I walk into the Medical School.
Why have you stayed?
The reason I have stayed at UT is simple, I love what I do. I believe you should really enjoy what you do for a living and, if you can, have a little fun along the way… well that makes the job even more enjoyable. I walk in to the office every day with a plan of what I want to accomplish then Dr. Lally comes in the office, and most days my plan changes. He will often say, “I have a mission for you” and that mission can be anything from I need you to make a gift basket for a faculty candidate and it needs to include a Houston Rockets hat and a San Antonio Spurs hat, or I need the names and addresses of Memorial Hermann Board members. I always tell him, “mission accepted!” He keeps me on my toes. Every day is an adventure.
UT has great benefits and that is definitely one of the things that made me want to work and stay here. My plan is to retire from UT many years from now.
On Sunday evening, I don’t feel like I HAVE to go to work on Monday, I feel like I GET to go to work on Monday.
When you are not at work, how do you spend your time?
When I am not at work, I like to spend time with my husband, Mark, and our adult sons, Cameron and Kevin, and my Dad. We like to take a family vacation each year. Last year we all went to Ashville, North Carolina and then to Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It was a wonderful and adventurous trip. We also like to go to Disney World every few years and see what is new. This year our plan is South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore and who knows what else we will do.
I really like to cook for my family and friends, and I have to say I am a pretty good cook. A few years back I got a smoker for Christmas. I did not have a clue how to smoke, but I did some research and now I can smoke a mean brisket, chicken, ribs, and pork butt. My latest kitchen gadget is a sous-vide cooker. I use the sous-vide a lot on the weekends since it is a slow cooking process.
My husband and I love to go to the movies on the weekends (pre-COVID) and just hang out at home with our two dogs, three cats, and hedgehog.