12 Days of Health Care Heroes

Every year, THA honors health care workers from across Texas who have made a difference in their organizations and communities. We recognize the importance of beginning the new year with renewed focus on the backbone of the hospital industry: its health care workers. Meet our heroes of 2021.


Cruz Alberto Bernal, M.D.

Hospitalist at Starr County Memorial Hospital and Medical Director at DHR Health Urgent Care

Dr. Bernal is regarded as a compassionate physician who works tirelessly to provide care for the underserved areas of the Rio Grande Valley. One of his favorite phrases that he shares with residents who shadow him is, “The patient is the driver of their health care decisions, we are just their guides.”


Pam Ezzell, RN

Nurse at Stephens Memorial Hospital

Over the past year, in addition to working full time, Pam is finishing up her degree to become a nurse practitioner. Her patients love her calm and soothing presence. She covered multiple departments over the past year and has done it all with a smile. Sometimes she is working in the ER, sometimes giving infusions in the ACS department and sometimes you will find her covering a shift on the med-surg unit.


Luis Gomez

Environmental Services Aid at Methodist Hospital Atascosa

Luis is passionate about providing a clean and safe place for patients to heal, and he ensures they feel at home and comfortable by praying with them and being someone to lean on during times of worry. He even purchases prayer cards, keychains and crossword puzzles for his patients and gives them small tokens to brighten their day. During the holidays, he puts miniature Christmas trees in the rooms of our COVID-19 patients in the ICU so they could have Christmas even though they couldn’t be home.


Teresa Isaacs

Employee Health Nurse at The Hospitals of Providence

Teresa is a dedicated and passionate nurse who is steadfast in her commitment to care for her colleagues and the community. She spearheaded every effort to vaccinate her team members and the community, helping El Paso become one of the most vaccinated communities in the state. Her most recent effort has been championing vaccine clinics for children ages 5 to 11. Teresa has worked tirelessly on nights and weekends to ensure El Paso’s smallest children are healthy and safe.


Andy T. Le, M.D.

Hospitalist at Medical City North Hills

Dr. Le exemplifies Medical City Healthcare’s mission and patient promise, which is to be committed to the care and improvement of human life, and to excellence always: every action, every patient, every time. Dr. Le is recognized by his colleagues and patients as a health care provider who goes above and beyond the call of duty to deliver safe and extraordinary care.


Jamie Mullen, RN

Medical-Surgical Nurse at Palo Pinto General Hospital

Jamie Mullen, RN works for Palo Pinto General Hospital in the Medical-Surgical unit most of the time, but now a more significant portion of her time is spent on the COVID-19 unit. One of Jamie’s skills is listening kindly and closely to her patients since most of them cannot have visitors. Jaime is an avid advocate for her patients and colleagues. When asked what she likes about working at Palo Pinto General Hospital, Jamie says with a big smile, “I love working here because it’s not corporate; it’s more like family. We have been slammed this past year because of COVID-19, but we are there for each other. It’s tough but rewarding.”


Brandon Quach, RN

Clinical Nurse Coordinator at St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center

Brandon is an exceptional nurse who is frequently recognized by patients and staff for his positive, upbeat energy. Brandon is the go-to person for all questions. He can manage patient flow and handle critical patient assignments, while making work fun and providing exceptional patient experience. He is an advocate for quality and safety within the department and is always first in line to assist with new process improvement ideas. He ensures that staff are prepared for their shift and always have the tools and resources they need to do their job and to enjoy the work they’re doing.


Ari Rao, M.D., Ph.D.

SVP and CMO, Pathology and Lab Medicine at Baylor Scott & White

In the early days of the pandemic, Dr. Rao and her team at Baylor Scott & White collaborated with a diagnostic company in Austin to offer one of the first approved COVID-19 rapid tests from a private health system. Her team went from running 50 tests a day to running 1,000 tests a day. “While we never meet our patients, we have a piece of them with us, and it is our responsibility to perform the right test, so they get the right diagnosis and can receive the best course of treatment and care,” says Dr. Rao. She and her team are now performing genomic sequencing on SARS-CoV-2 positive specimens, critical in support of the latest effort by labs across the globe to locate the highly contagious omicron variant.


Blake Simmons

Respiratory Therapist at Medical City Mckinney

Blake was recently recognized by several patients and their family members for his extraordinary care and compassion. One patient’s father recently wrote, “My son stopped breathing and Blake bagged him for more than 35 minutes before my son started breathing again. Blake saved my 23-year-old son’s life.” Another patient wrote, “Blake is the reason I had a complete turnaround. His determination and quick thinking are why my lungs are better. He was the biggest blessing to me in the hospital.”


Debra Staley

Community Relations Manager at St. Luke’s Health in the Woodlands

Debra was nominated for her exceptional leadership during the mass vaccination campaign in Montgomery County. She recruited dozens of community volunteers who played a critical role in traffic control, patient intake, and other logistics. She also personally staffed the vaccination site without missing a day during the six-month effort. Her enthusiasm, energy and leadership during this long effort made all the difference in being able to vaccinate over 100,000 Texans.


Allison Walker, RN

Nurse at Methodist Hospital Atascosa

Allison believes in the importance of spiritual and emotional healing for her patients, not just physical recovery. That’s why she incorporates her love of singing into her work every day. One COVID-19 patient in particular, a church pastor, felt a turnaround in his healing once she sang gospel hymns to him. Allison’s compassion and voice help her patients heal physically, spiritually and emotionally during their stay at the hospital.


University Health Pharmacy Team

Without the 500-plus employees of the University Health pharmacy team, COVID-19 might have landed more San Antonio patients in the hospital. In 2021, pharmacy staff have risen most weekdays before dawn to transfer, thaw and prepare doses of COVID-19 vaccine for health care workers, first responders and the community members coming to their vaccine center. They’ve worked 12 to 15-hour days week after week, delivering over a half million doses. Their pharmacy staff has voluntarily worked overtime to provide thousands of free flu shots at their weekend, drive-through clinics. They launched a new naloxone program that is preventing opioid overdoses, and voluntarily formulated San Antonio’s initial monoclonal antibody treatments that kept many COVID-19 patients from needing hospitalization.