Anita Perry, First Lady of Texas, offers advice for women looking to reinvent their careers, explains how her father inspired her to begin a career in nursing, and shares what keeps her motivated in our “Inspired By” Q&A.
Q: How did your professional career begin, and who inspired you as a young woman?
A: Healthcare has always been in my DNA. My dad was a family practice doctor – the doctor – in Haskell, and from my earliest memories, medicine played a role. It was a source of pride to see how the community relied on my father for healthcare needs for entire families. It was the care and compassion my dad provided that I experienced working in his practice as a teenager that was so inspirational to me. There was no doubt, healthcare was my passion and it would be my career.
Q: Your career has changed dramatically from your days in nursing. Did you ever imagine that you would end up in your current position?
A: Not in my wildest dreams did I ever think about being First Lady of Texas. I loved growing up in Haskell. I also enjoyed going to school in West Texas and earning my master’s in San Antonio at the UT Health Science Center.
Being First Lady has been an honor and a privilege and I am thrilled I’ve been able to use my professional and educational background with some of the initiatives I’ve championed through the years. One of the most memorable people I met as First Lady – and as a nurse – was a young cancer patient from South Texas, Daniela Villarreal. Daniela spearheaded an effort to raise funds for a VeinViewer Imaging System. The imaging system makes it easier to reveal a patient’s vascular structure, allowing physicians, nurses and other health care professionals to see viable veins more clearly, making it easier to administer cancer treatment and draw blood. Through Daniela’s determination and efforts, she raised enough money for the Vannie E. Cook Jr. Children’s Cancer and Hematology Clinic in South Texas to purchase a system. What a compassionate and inspiring person.
In addition, I love serving on the Board of Trustees for Baylor Scott & White. Founding the Texas Conference for Women has also been extremely rewarding. More than 70,000 attendees have attended the 13 Conferences over the years.
Q: You’ve continued to advocate as First Lady for the nursing profession. Why is that so important to you?
A: For obvious reasons, nursing is near and dear to my heart. I love the profession and it’s a vital role in our society, and with our state’s fast-growing population the need for nurses continues to be strong. It’s important to me that young people who are considering careers understand how important and rewarding a career in nursing can be. It’s an incredible opportunity to serve your community in an exciting and dynamic profession.
Often times, nurses provide the first line of patient care. In Texas, we have more than 340,000 nurses providing care in settings from doctors’ offices, to hospitals, to nursing homes, to home healthcare. As the medical field adapts to the state’s growing population, nursing is more important than ever. There are five times as many nurses as there are doctors in Texas so it is important we support our nurses and the 200 nursing education programs we have in Texas.
Q: Who is a leader that you have great respect for and why?
A: I have great respect and admiration for my husband. He has strong convictions and defends them vigorously. He has made Texas a beacon of economic prosperity. Economic development and jobs creation have been at the core of his philosophy for 20-plus years – well before he was Governor. He will leave an impressive legacy when he completes his term in office.
I also have great respect for Dr. Nancy Dickey. I’ve known Nancy for years and had the honor of serving with her on the Baylor Scott & White board. Nancy is a true trailblazer. She was the first female president of the American Medical Association. She was also the first woman to be president of the Texas A&M Health Science Center. And now she is executive director of Health For All, a non-profit clinic that provides healthcare to low-income individuals. She’s a generous person who cares deeply about others. That is inspiring.
Q: What is your best advice for women trying to balance their careers and their family lives?
A: You can’t do it all. There is a season for everything. You have to keep your priorities in clear focus and be realistic.
Q: What are the top 3 tips you would offer to a woman looking to reinvent her life?
A: Know yourself and your passions. Be curious and learn as much as you can about changing careers or positions. Enjoy the adventure of life.
Q: What is the one thing you make time for in your daily life that helps keep you refreshed and positive?
A: There are several things I make time for every day; prayer, reflection and a positive outlook on life. Gratitude is so important in one’s outlook on life.