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PARTNERS Annual Luncheon Will Honor Cooley, Feature Casscells
Funds from event earmarked for nursing scholarships, faculty endowment and research awards
The annual luncheon of PARTNERS, the support group of The University of Texas School of Nursing at Houston (SON), will honor a famed heart surgeon and Houston native, as well as bring another well known cardiologist back to the city.
Denton A. Cooley, M.D., president of the Texas Heart Institute (THI), is this year's honoree and S. Ward Casscells, III, M.D., former vice president for biotechnology at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and current United States Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, will deliver the keynote address.
The event is set for 11:30 a.m., Wednesday, March 26, at the Hilton Americas Hotel in downtown Houston. The theme for this year's event is, appropriately, "A Heart for Nursing."
"Dr. Cooley was a natural fit as an honoree," said luncheon chairman Kay English, noting that in addition to his world renown as a cardiologist, Cooley has strong ties to the Texas Medical Center and The University of Texas. Cooley is a UT alum who played on the 1939 Longhorn Southwest Conference Championship basketball team. His father, the late Ralph Cooley, D.D.S., was a 1909 graduate of the UT Dental Branch.
Last fall, James T. Willerson, M.D., resigned as president of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston to assume the post of president of the Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital. Willerson, who intends to stay on at UT Houston until a successor is in place, was appointed president-elect of THI in October 2004. Cooley will continue as president emeritus once Willerson assumes the THI presidency.
Last April, the United States Senate unanimously confirmed Casscells as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. Casscells took a leave of absence from his duties at the UT Health Science Center and as associate director for cardiology research THI to assume the post.
PARTNERS Chairman Suzie Conway said Casscells could share his unique perspective as an expert in the areas of bioterrorism and pandemics, along with his experience as a medical professional in the military.
"I heard Dr. Casscells speak on the bird flu pandemic threat at an event in the past, and he was fascinating in his expertise," Conway said. "We hope he will speak to that again and tie in the changing challenges to nurses in dealing with pandemics as well as bioterrorism and the role of nurses in the military, all areas in which his current role in conjunction with his past experience, should prove to be enlightening."
The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs is responsible for overall supervision of the health and medical affairs of the Department of Defense (DoD). The Secretary serves as the principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense for all DoD health policies, programs and activities, and exercises oversight of all DoD health resources.
Both English and Conway are looking forward to a good turnout for the annual event, which has grown to the point of requiring a large ballroom to accommodate attendance.
"It takes a lot of people to be a significant support group," Conway said. "The luncheon is where we generate our funds. This event is what allows us to do what we do."
English hopes this year's event will follow the trend of the past two and generate another SON endowed professorship.
"Our fundraising goal breaks down into three areas: we hope to fully fund seven scholarships, fund a third professorship and fund various areas of faculty research," English said.
Conway said the recent focus on funding endowed faculty positions is in direct response to feedback from Dean Patricia Starck, D.S.N.
"We asked Dean Starck, ‘what do you need the most?'" Conway recalled. "She told us we really need to be able to reward and retain our outstanding faculty. It was at that point that PARTNERS decided to establish endowed professorships."
Starck said endowed faculty appointments are not only tools for retaining top instructors, but can serve as promising incentives in recruiting the next generation of nursing educators.
"The School owes its success in large part to the PARTNERS group that has supported us in every way consistently each year for 14 years," Starck said. "This year's luncheon speaker and honoree are especially dear to my heart-two gentlemen who are great supporters of the nursing profession."
Current PARTNERS professors are Thomas Mackey, Ph.D., associate dean for practice at SON, and Joanne V. Hickey, Ph.D., assistant dean and chair of the Department of Acute and Continuing Care, and coordinator of the school's Doctor of Nursing Practice program.
PARTNERS was founded 14 years ago. In addition to the two endowed professorships, the group has awarded 71 scholarships, 31 faculty research grants and established a scholarship endowment valued at more than $1.4 million.
For tickets, call 713-500-2003.
By Wendy K. Mohon, Institutional Advancement
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