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2024 PARTNERS Spring Luncheon

Events breaks fundraising record

Diane Santa Maria, Gina Saour, Patricia L. Starck, Carolyn Moody Drake, and Ricardo E. Nuila.
Pictured (L-R): Diane Santa Maria, Gina Saour, Patricia L. Starck, Carolyn Moody Drake, and Ricardo E. Nuila.
Gina Saour, Ernie Manouse, Carolyn Drake
Event chairs Gina Saour and Carolyn Drake with emcee Ernie Manouse.

In a well-functioning hospital, no distinctions exist between physicians, nurses, and other members of a patient’s health care team, author Ricardo E. Nuila, MD, told a crowd of more than 250 celebrating the 30th anniversary of the PARTNERS organization.

PARTNERS hosted its most successful Spring Luncheon ever at River Oaks Country Club on March 19, raising more than $223,000 for student scholarships and faculty research at Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth Houston. Long-time members Carolyn Moody Drake, BSN, RN, and Gina Saour chaired the March 19 event with the theme “Petals of Hope.”

The luncheon honored Dean Emerita Patricia L. Starck, PhD, RN, FAAN, who helped establish PARTNERS (Providing Advancement Resources To Nursing Education, Research, and Students) in 1993 along with founding chair Margaret A. Barnett. Starck recognized several original PARTNERS members attending the luncheon, as well as faculty, staff, and students.

“All of you had some part in making the school what it is today,” said Starck, whose introduction drew a standing ovation. “In my retirement, it is wonderful to see the PARTNERS continuing with the school of nursing.”

During his keynote address, Nuila read and discussed passages from his book, “This People’s Hospital: Hope and Peril in American Medicine.” Nuila comes from a family of physicians, but he considered pursuing a career as a writer before applying to medical school. He found practicing at Ben Taub Hospital enabled him to do both, with patients serving as his muse.

The stories Nuila shared included those of middle-class patients who never imagined themselves being cared for at Harris County’s public hospital but wound up there due to lapses in adequate insurance coverage.

“The truth of the matter is that over the years, we are all on different levels of ice when it comes to health care,” he said. “Some people are on thin ice.”

Nuila described how some patients found spending time in the Ben Taub’s “Nightingale ward” a transformative experience as they commiserated with and supported one another. Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, designed the first hospital wards during the Crimean War, he explained, and the floorplan was credited with reducing mortality at the time compared to previous arrangements.

Hospital architecture has moved to more private and compartmentalized designs, but providers at Ben Taub find the arrangement practical and effective. “Open wards give doctors and nurses constant contact with patients,” Nuila said. “The care is about the people who give you the care.”

He also shared a clip of a 1960s Walter Cronkite interview with author and former University of Houston faculty member John De Hartog, whose writings about the Jefferson Davis County Hospital rallied support for creation of the Harris County Hospital District. De Hartog said his favorite thing about Houston was its creative energy.

“That creative energy in the air comes from compassion,” Nuila said. “I honestly believe I learned that from nurses, from seeing it in my colleagues.”

Nuila also referenced Russian author and physician Anton Chekhov, who advised young writers to tell stories about what exists or ought to exist.

“We’re giving people the vision of what ought to exist,” Nuila said of health care educators. “What ought to exist is that people should have someone at the bedside who cares for them. That’s what this organization is doing.”

Also speaking at the luncheon was Candice J. Triulzi, DrPH, MSN, RNC-NIC, a Cizik School of Nursing assistant professor who credited a PARTNERS scholarship with helping her “just keep going” as a first-generation college student.

“This is what all of you have blessed our school with over the past 30 years – the ability to just keep going,” Triulzi said.

Cizik School of Nursing Dean Diane Santa Maria, DrPH, MSN, ACRN, PHNA-BC, FAAN, thanked those in attendance for three decades of support.

“Through every challenge and opportunity of the last 30 years, PARTNERS has proven to be a faithful friend to Cizik School of Nursing, our people, and everyone who relies on us,” she said. “Thank you to everyone here today for your support of PARTNERS and the difference your generosity makes in the lives of people all around us.”

Houston Public Media’s Ernie Manouse served as master of ceremonies for the luncheon, as he has for many years, and Gayla Wilson, community engagement program manager for Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston, delivered the invocation for the luncheon.

See the event photo album.

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