With a Little Help from Our Alumni

May 14, 2015, 08:48 AM by Melissa Harman

During a recent Development Board meeting at UTMB, a number of questions were asked about the status of UTMB’s funding requests from the state legislature. Obtaining access to new members of the legislature is always difficult. I commented that I really could use some help in getting an appointment to see our new Lt. Governor, Dan Patrick. Within an hour I had a call from Development Board member Michele Purgason, volunteering her time to help set up a meeting with Lt. Governor Patrick to discuss UTMB’s need for support related to our exceptional growth in recent years.

Michele is a UTMB School of Nursing graduate and has some great stories of her time as a cheerleader with the Houston Oilers. She married Tom Purgason, a graduate of UTMB’s School of Medicine. After his residency training, Tom and Michelle made their home in Arlington, Texas, where they built a highly respected internal medicine practice and raised their children. Their daughter Ashley is an alumna of UTMB’s Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, where she was distinguished for her research in aerospace medicine as well as her service as a student member of the UT System Board of Regents.

Michele has been a trusted advisor and mentor for several successful candidates for elected office over the years. In her role as president of the Arlington Republican Women’s Club, she had met then-Senator Dan Patrick and kept in touch with him during his successful campaign for Lt. Governor.

When Michele called Lt. Governor Patrick’s office and asked for an appointment to discuss UTMB, her request was immediately granted. She called me, and said, “We have an appointment next Wednesday at 4:30! Can you be there?” We seized the opportunity.

Lt. Governor Patrick received us with great hospitality and revealed an extensive knowledge of UTMB’s research in infectious diseases, our safety net role in the delivery of regional trauma services and our role in health professions workforce development. We had the opportunity to expand his understanding regarding future potential threats in the area of emerging infectious diseases. We also discussed how UTMB’s requested research funding in this area, as well as hospital funding we’ve requested (similar to that provided to other state-owned hospitals), would benefit Texans.

We left the meeting feeling pleased that we had been able to state our case and be heard, and delighted to know that there are alumni like Tom, Michele and Ashley Purgason who daily look for ways to further our mission of improving health for the people of Texas and around the world.