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Bette P. Thomas Distinguished Professorship Announced at PARTNERS Luncheon

Published: February 02, 2010 by David Bates, School of Nursing


(March 18, 2010) – Dean Patricia Starck, DSN, RN, announced a new Bette P. Thomas Distinguished Professorship for Innovative Healthcare Delivery during the PARTNERS 2010 Spring Luncheon at the Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa, March 12. The endowed professorship for a faculty member of the UTHealth School of Nursing was created by the husband of PARTNERS immediate past-chair Bette Thomas – Houston business leader and philanthropist Ralph Thomas (both pictured below, at right, with Dean Starck and PARTNERS Chair Sheri Henriksen, L-R).

(L-R) Dean Patricia Starck with PARTNERS Chair Sheri Henriksen, PARTNERS immediate past-chair Bette Thomas and her husband – business leader and philanthropist Ralph Thomas – after the surprise announcement of the new Bette P. Thomas Distinguished Professorship for Innovative Healthcare Delivery.

(L-R) Dean Patricia Starck with PARTNERS Chair Sheri Henriksen, PARTNERS immediate past-chair Bette Thomas and her husband – business leader and philanthropist Ralph Thomas – after the surprise announcement of the new Bette P. Thomas Distinguished Professorship for Innovative Healthcare Delivery.

UTHealth President Larry R. Kaiser, M.D., F.A.C.S., commended the organization as “among the exceptional people who serve as pacesetters in education, research, prevention and patient care” and “a testament to the quality of work that Dean Starck inspires in her faculty, staff and students.”

During the luncheon, longtime PARTNERS supporters and event honorary chairs Jane and Robert Cizik were recognized as “special friends” of the School of Nursing. PARTNERS Chair Sheri Henriksen revealed that the Bachelor of Science in Nursing Scholarship will be named in honor of the Ciziks. Currently a UTHealth development board member, Robert Cizik chaired the building campaign for the award-winning School of Nursing and Student Community Center, which opened in 2004.

UTHealth School of Nursing Dean Patricia Starck, D.S.N., R.N., surprised PARTNERS immediate past-chair Bette Thomas with the announcement of a new Bette P. Thomas Distinguished Professorship for Innovative Health Care Delivery created by her husband, business leader and philanthropist Ralph Thomas.

(L-R) Sheri Henriksen celebrates with honorary event co-chairs Robert & Jane Cizik, who were recognized as “special friends” of the UTHealth School of Nursing.  The PARTNERS Bachelor of Science in Nursing Scholarship will be named in honor of the Ciziks.

(L-R) Sheri Henriksen celebrates with honorary event co-chairs Robert & Jane Cizik, who were recognized as “special friends” of the UTHealth School of Nursing. The PARTNERS Bachelor of Science in Nursing Scholarship will be named in honor of the Ciziks.

“We are very grateful to Ralph for his commitment to this School of Nursing – expressed not just through his philanthropy, but through his leadership,” Dean Starck said. “With this distinguished professorship named for Bette, both Thomases are showing that nurses have an important part to play in creating hope for a healthier future.”

Dean Starck also announced that the Texas MBA at Houston program offered by the UT McCombs School of Business soon will be housed at the School of Nursing.  “This is very fitting, because Ralph challenged me to think like a businessman,” Dean Starck said. “He suggested the business school model as an example of what our school can do in finding new ways of doing things, and we’ve learned much from the ideas he has for making changes in the way healthcare is being delivered.”

Hwang, the guest speaker, is a co-author – along with Clayton M. Christensen and the late Jerome H. Grossman, M.D. – of The Innovator's Prescription : A Disruptive Solution for Health Care (McGraw-Hill, c2008), which offers an insightful analysis of the problems in America’s “broken” system of health care.

In his remarks, he outlined principles for a “disruption” of the current health care industry in a way that “results in dramatic reduction in price and improved accessibility.” Hwang cited the retail clinics model and the “health home” or “comprehensive care” trends as examples of patient-driven innovation in primary care that will “end the one-size-fits-all era of health care delivery.”

(L-R) Chair Sheri Henriksen, UTHealth President Larry R. Kaiser, M.D., F.A.C.S., and Dean Patricia Starck with Bette Thomas during the PARTNERS 2010 Spring Luncheon at the Houstonian Hotel, Spa & Club.

(L-R) Chair Sheri Henriksen, UTHealth President Larry R. Kaiser, M.D., F.A.C.S., and Dean Patricia Starck with Bette Thomas during the PARTNERS 2010 Spring Luncheon at the Houstonian Hotel, Spa & Club.

Hwang is an internal medicine physician, senior strategist for the healthcare practice at Innosight LLC, and co-founder and executive director of healthcare at Innosight Institute, a non-profit social innovation think tank in San Francisco, California.

“Nurse practitioners can be part of the solution for many of the issues revolving around what’s going to happen in Washington with health care,” he concluded.  “And advanced practice nurses, not just primary care physicians, deserve a place at the table where health care policy is being made.”

PARTNERS stands for “Promoting Advancement Resources to Nursing Education, Research and Students.” The organization was formed in 1994 to lend support and encouragement for students and faculty of the UT School of Nursing through scholarships, endowments, faculty research grants and student services. To date, the organization holds a $1-million endowment to support its projects.

The PARTNERS incoming chair is Leslie Bowlin Bennett. Bette Thomas and Lynne Averett were the 2010 luncheon committee co-chairs.

The master of ceremonies was award-winning former TV news anchor Steve Smith. Rabbi Samuel E. Karff, founder of UTHealth’s John P. McGovern, M.D. Center for Health, Humanities and Human Spirit, opened the luncheon with an invocation.