Texas House Recognizes TMA Alliance on First Tuesdays’ 20th Anniversary
By Alisa Pierce Texas Medicine May 2023

Clad in commemorative scarves honoring the 20th anniversary of First Tuesdays at the Capitol, Texas Medical Association Alliance (TMAA) members stood tall among a sea of white coats as State Rep. Julie Johnson (D-Farmers Branch) recognized their dedication to medicine on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives on March 7. 

“It gives me great pleasure to recognize the grassroots community health and advocacy of the TMA Alliance,” Representative Johnson said. “Thank you for the all the hard work you do to improve the health of our communities and the lives of Texans.”

TMAA President Libby White called the event “the memory of a lifetime.”

“It was so special to be recognized, not only as TMAA members, but as life-long advocates for medicine,” she said.

Susan Todd, 2002-03 alliance president and First Tuesdays founder, was among those singled out in Representative Johnson’s speech amidst cheers from the gallery.

“Alliance members may not always be in medicine, but they live it every day,” Ms. Todd told Texas Medicine.  

“First Tuesdays is an award-winning program. It gets results; it gets us seen; it is what we have to do to get the business of medicine done and practice medicine the way you want to practice medicine. … Nothing looks more impressive than the sea of white coats,” Jenny Shepherd, a TMAA board member and First Tuesdays chair, said during the opening presentation of the TMA event at TMA headquarters.

Rep. Suleman Lalani, MD (D-Sugar Land), echoed that commendation to a packed audience before the group made its way to the Capitol for the second of four First Tuesdays events this session. 

“You are a powerhouse,” said the Texas Legislature’s newest physician lawmaker, who also attended the House ceremony. 

Ms. Todd pitched the idea for First Tuesdays at a time when the alliance held health fairs for legislators and their staff only once a session in the Capitol basement. 

While those events saw some success, Ms. Todd knew the alliance needed to bolster its efforts, especially after the crushing repeal of the universal helmet law in 1997.

Alliance members advocated tirelessly to pass the protections, which mandated that all motorcyclists wear a helmet, regardless of the rider’s age or experience, only to have it repealed soon after. The repeal unfortunately brought an influx of motorcycle fatalities, which alliance members had tried to prevent.

Ms. Todd recalled questioning a senator about why the law was repealed, after which she learned this:

“Lawmakers hadn’t heard from doctors, but they had heard from their opponents,” she said. 

It was then Ms. Todd knew that Texas physicians needed a consistent presence at the Capitol to protect their patients.

“I learned then that if physicians aren’t there, lawmakers will listen to someone else,” she said.

Odessa allergist Vivek Rao, MD, said his First Tuesdays experience has been one he will never take for granted.

“I felt I’ve been able to change people’s minds on some ... issues” he said. “It’s just such a wonderful feeling to be a part of something so big and to know that my role makes a difference. I think that’s why a lot of folks are involved in First Tuesdays. If we can help defeat bad  bills and pass the good ones, we can make a difference in the lives of millions of patients.”

To celebrate the anniversary, Ms. Todd unveiled her painting of what’s been dubbed the “white coat invasion” of the Capitol, and dedicated it to TMA. Prints of the painting can be purchased from the TMA Foundation by visiting tmaf.ejoinme.org/FirstTuesday. 

The artwork, which Ms. Todd admitted she “never thought I’d be able to draw,” was inspired by years of dedication to the health of Texas.

“I created this painting from memory and from my passion for medicine,” she said. “First Tuesdays becomes a part of your soul.”

Last Updated On

May 01, 2023

Originally Published On

April 27, 2023

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Alisa Pierce

Alisa Pierce is a reporter for Texas Medicine. After graduating from Texas State University, she worked in local news, covering state politics, public health, and education. Alongside her news writing, Alisa covered up-and-coming artists in Central Texas and abroad as a music journalist. As a Texas native, she enjoys capturing the landscape on her film camera while hiking her way across the Lonestar State.

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