TMA President E. Linda Villarreal, MD: Installation Address

Buenos dias, y’all!

Good morning, my friends, colleagues, mentors, and all the past Texas Medical Association presidents! Welcome to my precious grandchildren, my family, and my brand-new husband!

I am honored – I’m quite humbled – to be standing here before you, and excited to head into this new year as your 156th Texas Medical Association president.

If you had told me 35 years ago, I would be standing here before you as your incoming president, I would not have believed it. No one is born a leader, but if one is as fortunate as I have been, you cannot help but want to lead the way by giving back and sharing the joy and the passion I have felt for the practice of medicine since 1985.

What was the spark that made me think I wanted to be a physician?

Dr. Joe May, 1957. As a sickly child since the age of 4 with severe asthma, I missed a lot of school. I had to stay with my grandmas so my parents could go to work. I still remember Dr. Joe May walking up the sidewalk to our house with his little black bag, coming to take care of me. That picture stayed in my inner core and created that desire to do what he did … be a family doc, take care of patients, and reassure them I was here for them. I wanted to provide them with THEIR medical home.

Being a physician and part of organized medicine did not “happen” to me. Instead both medicine as a profession and being a physician leader in organized medicine “became” a part of me.

Through the years, so many physician leaders have inspired me, influenced me, taught me, and pushed me. These amazing physicians and so many in my TMA family have taught me intangible qualities like dedication, integrity, and strength of character, and given me the energy and power and wisdom we all call upon every day.

But my greatest inspiration – and the most important person in my life – is the one who taught me compassion, empathy, humility, and caring for others, and being of service. That is my incredible, loving, miraculous earthly mother, Anita.

My mom raised seven children. I was first, and then came six guys. ... She gave tirelessly to family, community, and the church all the while completing a college education. With infinite energy, she gave of herself constantly. I always used to think she had 36 hours in her day.

She never realized the impact she had on me and so many others. She taught us the art of giving, and the art of resiliency – to never give up even when times were hard.

Through my mom I learned who I was and who I could be. She helped me understand my life’s purpose to serve others and help my community be better. So even though I realized  at very young age that being a physician was in my heart, Mom helped me believe I could be a physician.

I am sure many of you, either as children or as young adults, realized you were meant to be a physician. You were meant to enjoy that passion and joy of caring for people, and likely you, too, had someone in your life who inspired you to achieve that calling.

2020 demonstrated over and over who physicians are at their core. When the pandemic hit, physicians ran to the front lines. We ran to the aid of our patients, our friends, our neighbors, our community. Some of our practices shut down. Surgeries were halted, and specialty appointments were stopped abruptly. Yet we still found a way to be of service. We did not walk. We ran.

Going forward we must continue to address and solve the many challenges that affect our profession, our patients, our communities, our state, and our nation.

Challenges like scope of practice – individuals wanting to do what we do but without the training we have. We deliver care as a team. We need all of us to provide care for our patients using the training and skills we were taught, and physicians are the leader of those team.

Preauthorization … I’m sure you all know it takes two days out of the five-day work week to complete pre-auths if you tally up all the time it takes to get them approved. It delays care and access to care for our patients.

Then there is telemedicine. Who’d have thought this would be a critical component of health care? It’s been in the discussion mode for at least two decades ... and then in a matter of a few months, it’s become a standard of care for physicians and patients. It is a patient visit – why shouldn’t we receive payment parity for this visit?

Through our TMA we have an incredible voice, unified no matter what your specialty. We have gained the skills, expertise, and leadership to solve so many issues in our health care system, and we continue to work as a team to improve the public health of our communities.

I am very proud of our work – all of us have done over the years --as one unified voice. I am proud to have been part of improving the health care climate in Texas and improving our ability to care for our patients.

But we still have so much to do but TMA knows how to get it done through its advocacy efforts. One example is the Border Health Caucus. For the past 20 years I have been involved with the BORDER HEALTH CAUCUS where we bring issues affecting the border to our elected leaders in Washington D.C. and at the state house. We discuss the unique problems along the Border facing our patients and our medical practices. And how the Border issues affect all of Texas .... they do not stop at the actual Texas-Mexico border.

Through TMA and the AMAZING ALLIANCE … First Tuesdays at the Capitol was born. I thank Susan Todd and her amazing team, almost 20 years ago, for creating  First Tuesdays at the Capitol each session – and now our First Tuesdays in the District where we meet with our local elected officials during the interim.

But more than all of this, TMA and ORGANIZED MEDICINE have given us a family … an incredible support system through which I have made many dear friends over the past 35 years. After the loss of my husband, Donald, on the start of TMA Winter Conference 2015, so many called and reached out, and one very special person even drove down to the valley – 325 miles – to attend the funeral, and then drove back to fulfill her responsibilities during winter conference. This is family ... this is the TMA family.

So, as we take our next steps, LET’S ROLL UP OUR SLEEVES to focus on possibilities and work together to accomplish our common vision for a better health care climate for our patients and our profession.

Let’s inspire each other, summon our talents, and “git ‘er done.” Let’s support our advocacy team to protect our profession, and join TEXPAC.

My dear friends, I truly believe LEADERSHIP goes beyond talent and passion. It requires the energy and ability to energize others in a positive way – to teach them to release their own positive energy so their talent, passion, and love of their profession emerges to make them the leaders of tomorrow.

I have been very fortunate for 35 years. I am ready to lead, but more importantly, I do hope to inspire.

I look forward to standing with you, to working with you, and most importantly, to inspiring you.

Last Updated On

May 25, 2021

Originally Published On

May 14, 2021