As the vice president for offender health services and the chief physician executive for UTMB’s Correctional Managed Care (CMC) program, Dr. Owen Murray oversees the medical, mental health and dental services for more than 120,000 offenders within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ)—that’s 80 percent of the state’s inmate population. UTMB’s correctional care health system provides medical services in more than 100 adult and juvenile correctional facilities in the eastern two-thirds of the state, with more than 3,400 UTMB staff members.
Before joining UTMB in the 1990s, Murray worked as a physician in the Cook County Jail system and the Illinois Department of Corrections. He graduated from the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed his residency at Michigan State University. He also holds an MBA degree from the University of Houston–Clear Lake.
In between traveling to various units across the state, we caught up with him to learn a little bit about what makes him tick at work and at home.
What does the Road Ahead look like for you?
The Road Ahead looks challenging for CMC, but we are up for the challenge. Continuing to provide quality health services to an aging offender population that suffers from chronic disease at an increasing rate—all with limited staffing, infirmary capacity and capital resources—will make FY 16-17 an exciting couple of years. TDCJ’s Legislative Appropriations Request included needed salary increases for CMC staff, necessary capital equipment and additional staff, and we are hopeful those requests will be approved in the final state budget that covers the next two fiscal years. However, no matter what is provided, we are committed to continuing the same excellent patient care and service as we have for the last two decades.
What are your hopes for this legislative session in regards to the CMC budget?
Of course, we will make good use of any and all resources provided to us through the contract with TDCJ, and all of the items mentioned above are important for our program. But my personal hope is for the Legislature to address salary increases within CMC. Our team can receive raises only when the funding is specifically provided to TDCJ by the Legislature. CMC employees have received one 4 percent pay increase over the last six years. Combine that with staff reductions over that same time period, and we have a team that is working very hard to meet high demands in a challenging work environment with limited resources. They do a great job, and I’d personally love to be able to recognize those efforts with pay increases.
What aspect of your job do you enjoy the most?
I would say the people with whom I get to work. We have 3,400 dedicated CMC employees scattered across two-thirds of the state, each of whom has a very interesting and unique story. Also, the opportunity to work with our campus colleagues, TDCJ, Texas Juvenile Justice Department, Texas Tech [the other contracted provider of state offender health services] and the Texas Legislature provides the opportunity for professional challenge and the chance to work with a diverse group of people.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Raising my two girls and seeing how they have turned out. Suzanne is currently a sophomore at Wake Forest University and Maeve is a high school senior, soon to be joining her sister at Wake.
What is your favorite book?
I love the Dave Robicheaux novel series by James Lee Burke. Burke is a great storyteller and describes the life and land of Louisiana in way that you almost can feel.
Comedy: Tommy Boy or Dodge Ball. Non-comedy: Godfather series and Goodfellas.
If you had to eat one meal, every day for the rest of life, what would it be?
It would be pizza, provided I could switch up my pie makers.
What have you always wanted to do but have not done yet?
A triathlon. I have run two marathons, but the ultimate challenge would be an Ironman. Just to say I finished would justify all the work and sacrifice. However, its going to take at least one new knee before we give it a go!